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Some Neighbors Not Humoring Comedy Club’s Request to Expand

Times Staff Writer

It wasn’t a laughing matter to Encino residents Monday when a comedy club asked Los Angeles city zoning officials for permission to expand.

Nearby homeowners protested that the L.A. Cabaret already has made theirs the Rodney Dangerfield of neighborhoods: a place that gets no respect.

Late-night crowds litter residential streets behind the club at 17271 Ventura Blvd. with trash and beer bottles, residents complained.

And late at night, there’s nothing funny, either, about the laughter, applause and music that drifts from the comedy stage into their homes, residents told a zoning officer.

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But club owner Ray Bishop said he needs a conditional use permit that will increase occupancy from 181 patrons to 266 and will allow dancing between comedy shows. He said the expansion is needed to make him competitive with two other comedy clubs in the San Fernando Valley.

Club Bought in ’83

Bishop’s lawyer, Herman Sillas, said Bishop acquired the club in 1983 thinking that he had permission for crowds of up to 274. It was learned later that a conditional use permit was needed for an audience larger than 181.

“It’s been said, what we as a society need more of is laughter,” Sillas said. “We want a place where people can come and relax and leave feeling good about life.”

Among homeowners testifying during a two-hour hearing in Van Nuys, nearby resident Dr. Burt Roger said free-spirited club-goers departing from midnight to 2 a.m. have driven over lawns, uprooting mailboxes and shrubbery.

“Good comedy is fine,” said homeowner Chuck DeNet. “It’s when people leave the club that we have problems. Friday and Saturday nights, it gets horrendous. It’s crazy.”

Said neighbor Jere Hausfater: “The place is a mess; you can’t park around it. It’s noisy. This is an issue of a disco versus a comedy club.”

However, comedians who work at the club said Bishop doesn’t joke around when it comes to running an orderly place.

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Rowdy Conduct Halted

Before Bishop took over the club in 1983, there were “fights in the parking lot and people throwing up on their shoes,” said entertainer Michael Rapport. He said that doesn’t happen anymore.

Added comedian Mel Kohl: “This is not a rowdy club. I’ve never experienced a more docile crowd leaving a club.”

Musician Larry Greene testified that his quartet plays music from the 1930s and ‘40s at the club. “Never have I played disco,” Greene said. “I never will. My music is laid back.”

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John J. Parker, associate city zoning administrator, wrote down arguments from both sides before announcing that it is unlikely he will authorize both a dance floor and increased occupancy for the club.

Parker told a crowd of about 60 at the hearing that he will spend about a month reviewing the case before issuing a ruling. “There’s a lot involved here,” he said. “It’s quite complicated.”


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