Planners OK market's liquor bid

Two years after having a similar application denied, a Korean market on Tuesday was given the unanimous backing of the Planning Commission to sell liquor.

The commission will recommend that Lotte Market, at 2135 Foothill Blvd., be granted a conditional use permit to sell beer and wine, pending its approval for a liquor license by the state Department of Alcohol Beverage Control. The matter will next be considered by the City Council.

The market’s owner, Kyung Ok Jin, and his daughter, Irene Jin, told the commission that last year’s closure of neighboring Graham’s Liquor sent customers to stores in other areas to find specialty Asian beers and wines. This, the Jins said, has had an effect on Lotte’s bottom line.

When the market opened in 2003, the Jins approached the owner of Graham’s to suggest he carry the Asian brands that their customers sought and he agreed, Irene Jin said.

”So, for eight years our customers were able to shop at our store then go next door,” she said. “Now our customers are doing most of their shopping in Glendale and L.A., so they can do their shopping in one place.”

She also said that over the past month the market had collected the signatures of 1,058 customers who supported Lotte’s application.

Although city staff recommended denial of the conditional use permit, all five of the commissioners endorsed it.

“I think Lotte Market offers a particular product and I think providing these beer and wines adds value to a local business,” Commissioner Rick Gunter said. “I’m all about supporting local business.”

According to assistant city planner Jo-Anne Parinas, the market is located in the census tract that includesbusinesses on the north side of Foothill, from Briggs Avenue to Alta Canyada Drive. Because that area already includes the maximum three establishments with liquor licenses as prescribed by the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control, the final decision will come from the City Council.

Irene Jin said that while Big Lots, Ocean View Liquor and Altadena Dairy sell some Asian beer and liquor, they don’t have what Lotte Market’s customers are looking for.

“Many liquor stores have soju (Korean rice liquor), but that’s not our main concern,” she said. “Our customers are looking for Asian beer and wine, and cooking wine.”

Gunter said that the city’s regulation against having an “undue concentration” of liquor licenses within the market’s census tract was unfair in this case.

“I think in this case the census tract is a little bit misleading,” said Gunter. “Cooking wine and such is very different than the stuff you find in the back of Big Lots or a liquor store.”

The commission’s approval did bear two conditions: Lotte Market will not be permitted to post any special signage advertising liquor, and the beer and wine may only take up a limited percentage of the store’s floor space. A final approval resolution with these conditions will come before the next commission meeting, then sent to the City Council.

The commission’s decision put a smile on the face of Kyung Ok Jin. However, he said after the meeting that he didn’t want to comment until the application process is complete, as there is “still some way to go.”

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