After a long, testy public hearing, Los Angeles city officials this week approved a permit for Club Oasis to serve alcohol, paving the way for a local businessman to elevate his restaurant to a banquet-capacity hall--a first in Eagle Rock.
The decision by the city of Los Angeles Office of Zoning and Administration draws a compromise between restaurant owner Khachick Saradjian and about 200 residents who signed a petition against his application for the conditional land-use permit to serve alcohol, including hard liquor. Residents feared that the restaurant would become a nightclub/bar and ruin the bedroom-community character of the neighborhood.
But Saradjian’s many vociferous supporters included members of the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce, who called Club Oasis an “elegant restaurant.”
Chamber President Dean Spurgeon, 70, who was born and reared in Eagle Rock, said the community needs a big banquet hall. Its civic groups currently rent halls in neighboring Pasadena or Glendale for its events, he said.
“I have a vested interest in Eagle Rock,” said Spurgeon’s wife, Lucy, 67, who was also born and raised in Eagle Rock.
"(Club Oasis) is a beautiful restaurant and we absolutely need it,” she said.
Saradjian initially proposed that his restaurant at 2435 Colorado Blvd., which is now open only for lunch, expand its hours for wedding banquets and business gatherings from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week. Besides the expanded hours, neighbors were also aggravated by the lack of parking spaces. The 300-person-capacity restaurant has only 30 on-site parking spaces. The spaces are shared with other commercial offices in the three-story complex owned by Saradjian.
After seeing the growing and demonstrative protests from the restaurant’s neighbors, including three churches, Saradjian, in his oral proposal to the zoning administrator, pared the operating hours to 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday through Thursday. He wants to keep the extended hours on Friday and Saturday.
As for parking, Saradjian said he intends to turn an adjacent 5,000-square-foot commercial property he owns into a two-story parking lot that would accommodate 30 cars. (He did not indicate when construction would begin.) He also said that the on-site free valet parking at the restaurant has been used for tandem parking, making room for twice as many cars than the 30 allowed by the marked spaces.
Combined, the parking spaces are more than enough for any given day, Saradjian said. The 4,400-square-foot restaurant seats about 200 people--100 less than the zoned capacity--and averages about 65 cars, he said.
Resident Mona Field, who led the protest, said the compromise is fair to both the community and the developer.
In two weeks, Associate Zoning Administrator Daniel Green will detail the final terms, which could mean shorter hours than those proposed by Saradjian. After that, the Office of Zoning and Administration must wait 15 days for an appeal before granting a permit.
“I’m optimistic that the conditions will meet the demands of the community,” Field said. “But (once we) get it in writing, we’ll meet and see if it’s enough.”
But before Saradjian can legally open a bottle of wine to go with the Middle Eastern cuisine at Club Oasis, the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control will also need to grant a liquor license. Last month, the ABC mailed out notices about Saradjian’s application for a liquor license to all property owners and residents within 500 feet of the restaurant. Saradjian said he expects state approval to follow the city’s.
Field said she and the neighbors trust Saradjian’s good intentions, but the license is granted to the property itself. Therefore, she said, she wants guarantees in case new owners operate the facility.
A professor of political science and sociology at Glendale College, Field campaigned against the restaurant’s expanded hours with flyers, petitions, letter-writing campaigns to City Councilman Richard Alatorre and the zoning administrator, by organizing neighborhood meetings and by notifying the media.
With Alatorre’s support and her neighbors in tow, Field extracted from the zoning administrator conditions for Saradjian’s alcohol permit.
In handing down his decision, Green suggested that even if Saradjian’s intentions are sincere in his quest for a banquet hall in the community, the restaurant owner was vulnerable to his neighbors from the outset.
Quoting Shakespeare’s line, “What’s in a name?” Green suggested that “Club Oasis” resonates “an adult entertainment club with its worst connotations.” The illusion was only underscored by the original proposal for operating hours of 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., he said.
Green’s conditions include limiting the hours or days liquor can be served and reviewing the results a year later. He also plans to use future extended liquor service hours as an incentive for the promised additional parking lot.
Saradjian, 45, a Glendale investor who owns other commercial and residential properties in the Los Angeles area, said that without alcohol, the restaurant, which has been operating in the red since its opening in January, “will go broke. . . . I can kiss this business goodby.”
“You need alcohol,” he said, “to run a classy, respectable restaurant to attract the wealthier clientele. . . . All the businessmen go where they can have cocktails and full-scale entertainment.”
Saradjian said the restaurant would feature jazz and other “adult music,” or live band music desired by banquet organizers. He said he would never permit rap or heavy metal.
Saradjian said he has already invested $1.5 million buying and renovating the three-story building that houses the Oasis and cannot afford to lose any more.
“I never intended to have a nightclub or a bar,” he said. “I run a respectable operation. Do you think you could have such a thing with a congressman in the same building?” Saradjian was referring to U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles), who rents an office in the complex and wrote a letter complimenting Saradjian’s restaurant.