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Proposed Mediterranean restaurant in Laguna gets hung up by odor and trash concerns

Proposed Mediterranean restaurant in Laguna gets hung up by odor and trash concerns
A couple who formerly operated a restaurant in Israel want to bring vegetarian Mediterranean food to Forest Avenue in Laguna Beach, including falafel, salads, shakeshuka and other dishes. (File Photo / AP)

The Laguna Beach Planning Commission unanimously postponed a decision Wednesday night on an application for a new Mediterranean restaurant on Forest Avenue until it has more information about how to dispel possible cooking smells and properly remove trash.

The commissioners expressed support for the idea of a Mediterranean restaurant in Laguna but raised issues with several aspects of the conditional use permit application for the proposed establishment, Mizlala by Amir, including whether it is appropriate for the planned location in the historical Eschbach’s building at 305 Forest Ave. The restaurant would take the place of Harmony Tea Bar, which commissioners said closed a few months after opening.

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“I think everybody likes the idea of the food and the restaurant and what you’re providing; it’s just a question of whether it’s in the right box,” said commission Chairman Roger McErlane.

Applicant Anna Seban wants to bring the 23-seat restaurant to downtown. Specializing in vegetarian dishes cooked by her husband, Amir, the menu would include falafel, salads, shakeshuka (poached eggs with a tomato- and pepper-based sauce), homemade hummus and other dishes.

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The couple moved to Laguna Beach from Chicago a few months ago, Anna Seban said. Before that, they ran a restaurant in Israel for 20 years.

Owners of neighboring businesses spoke about concerns that the restaurant would increase parking problems on Forest Avenue and emit smells that could affect their businesses.

“The tea place had very strong odors,” said artist Marc Whitney, who works in a gallery in the same building as the proposed restaurant. “When they moved their trash across the front door [there is no back door] … I smell that stuff too.”

Seban and her project manager said they will work to find a solution to the potential odor problem, such as installing a filter or elongating the vent piping so it doesn’t blow onto nearby buildings.

The commission suggested the restaurateurs meet with building and water quality officials to obtain more information about the building’s requirements and possible odor solutions before returning with the application.

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