City OKs second Korean market for alcohol

Six weeks after La Cañada Flintridge's Lotte Market received the Planning Commission's unanimous backing in its efforts to sell beer and wine, the city's other Korean market received the same support.

The commission voted 5-0 in favor of recommending that Seoul Market, at 2383 Foothill Blvd, be given 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, along with Lotte Market's permit, will be considered by the City Council.

Although Seoul Market is only a block away from Lotte Market in a census tract that already has the maximum three liquor-selling establishments prescribed by city code, commissioner Michael Cahill said he thought it should also receive a permit.

“I completely support this,” Cahill said. “It's a modest alcohol use to a convenience store to make it a convenient place to go. I don't think this business should be treated any differently from the other Korean store, and I think it's fair for both.”

Former design commission member Jay Johnson spoke on behalf of the market's owner, Harold Lee, and told the planning commissioners Tuesday night Seoul Market would be happy to abide by the same conditions imposed on Lotte Market. These conditions limit the beer and wine stock to a limited percentage of the store's floor space and proscribe any special signage advertising their sale.

“We would like to ask for the same privilege from you commissioners to have the opportunity to sell beer and wine in Mr. Lee's market, under the same conditions Lotte Market has,” Johnson said.

As in the case made by Lotte Market owner Kyung Ok Jin, Johnson said that Lee had been losing business to Korean markets that sell beer and wine in neighboring cities.

“The city of La Cañada will be making a statement about whether they want small markets to survive in La Cañada,” he said. “If Lotte and Seoul Markets can't sell beer and wine, they will lose customers to La Crescenta and other markets.”

If the markets do gain the City Council's approval, they can count on at least one customer of their new wares. La Cañada resident Peter Jung addressed the commission to voice his support for the markets.

“I'm born and raised Korean American … and I actually go to this market, and Lotte, and I've always asked this question: “Why don't you sell soju, and what I like, Hite beer, which I've been drinking for a long time?'” he said. “I actually have to drive all the way to Korea Town to get … soju and beer, when I live 10 minutes away from these markets.”

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