COSTA MESA — A seemingly simple request by Target to stay open later for the holiday shopping season turned into a long debate Tuesday when the City Council learned that the retailer had been violating the terms of its business permit — apparently inadvertently — for more than a year.
"I'm really shocked that Target took it upon themselves to add an hour to operations without considering their terms of approval," Councilman Eric Bever said. "I understand the idea that we want to help our business community, that we want to be a good city for business. I get that.
"Where I have a problem is when we have a business that reaches an agreement with our residents — hard-fought agreements — and we have a case here where, 'Golly, we didn't know the rules, so we're going to do whatever we're going to do.'"
A store manager said the company did not know its hours, which were set in an agreement with the city 11 years ago, were out of compliance. A district manager said the corporate office set the hours for various locations, unaware of the rules specific to Costa Mesa.
Target's conditional-use permit signed in 2000 allows the Harbor Boulevard store to stay open until 10 p.m. The store is allowed to open an extra hour the day after Thanksgiving until New Year's Eve.
But for the last year and a half, company officials told the council this week, Target's been saying open until 11 p.m.
"Now that I'm here in this position, I'm taking the liaison role between headquarters and the store teams to make sure this doesn't happen again," Jacqueline Lurner, central Orange County district manager for Target, told the council.
Target was on the agenda to address holiday hours.
Though the city Planning Commission last month gave the store the OK to open up at 12 a.m. for all future Black Fridays, the council deadlocked 2-2 on the issue, pushing the decision to next month because Mayor Gary Monahan was absent and could not break the tie.
The corporation evaluated product volume and foot traffic for all of its locations, and the Costa Mesa store was among the 80% of Targets told to stay open until 11 p.m., Lurner said.
In addition, the Costa Mesa location is among the company's top 2% earners among more than 1,800 stores nationwide.
Records show the store received a $150 fine on Nov. 9 for staying open past 10 p.m. The store also opened at 12 a.m. Black Friday, even though it did not have permission from the city, which resulted in another fine. However, those are the only two fines associated with that location.
"Residents negotiated with Target in good faith," Planning Commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick told store officials at the November commission meeting. "And there's several in the community that feel they had a good faith negotiation and the big company Target didn't honor that agreement."
Target offered a statement when asked about the violations and council delaying its decision.
"Target is committed to providing a great shopping experience for our guests and we want to be open when guests want to shop," said Antoine LaFromboise, a Target spokesman. "In 2000, Target was granted permission for operating hours from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. from the day after Thanksgiving through New Year's. We are currently operating under these hours. We are working with the City Council to address any concerns related to the store hours."