Patrons can toast at the opening of a new restaurant coming to the Shore Hotel, after the City Council narrowly approved an alcohol permit for ‘Avery’ Tuesday night. The move came after a three-hour discussion that ranged from accusations against the family that owns the site to questions of whether it’s appropriate to drink a beer at 7 a.m.
“We’re happy with the result,” Avery’s owner Peter Trinh said as he walked out of Council Chambers Tuesday night at 10 o’clock. “We’ve been caught in the crossfire on an issue that had nothing to do with my company or my business partners so I’m happy that City Council saw that viewpoint.”
The decision came before the Council after the hotel worker’s union, Unite Here Local 11, appealed the permit on grounds the Shore Hotel itself may be operating without the proper permits from the Coastal Commission, which oversees development by the beach. The Union recently won a $100,000 settlement from the hotel after several members were punished or fired for testifying about the hotel to the Commission.
The Shore Hotel and the Coastal Commission are scheduled to go to trial in June. The 3,000 square foot restaurant will be located at 1530 2nd Street.
“The proposed restaurant is not even open and the Shore has aggressively been advertising it as its ‘hotel restaurant pending city approval,’” Unite here analyst Danielle Wilson said at the meeting.
Wilson passed around a print out of the Shore Hotel’s website advertising the coming of a new restaurant to the hotel. Wilson said the advertisement was taken down months ago after it was brought to the attention of the Planning Commission. The Shore is prohibited from having its own restaurant as it is supposed to have limited amenities to keep prices reasonable – a recent search shows rooms costing between $370 and $500 per night. It is one of several points of contention between the hotel and the Commission.
“I had personally delivered room service. I later found out we weren’t even supposed to be offering room service and they were still advertising it for months after they fired me,” Union member Jonah Breslow said, who was one of three former employees awarded back pay in the court settlement.
Because of the evidence of past wrongdoing by the Shore, Councilmember Kevin McKeown said he was standing by his principals by upholding the Union’s appeal and denying the permit.
“In granting this (Conditional Use Permit) we are giving a very significant financial benefit to a company that has had problems fulfilling CUP conditions with us in the past,” McKeown said.
Those who voted with McKeown, Councilmembers Sue Himmelrich and Tony Vazquez, acknowledged their actions would hurt Trinh, a successful Hollywood agent behind the popular Craftsman Bar and Grill.
“I feel real bad that Avery, which is a separate operation, is in the middle of this,” Vazquez said.
Himmelrich worried the City could be held liable for issuing permits to a property that may be operating in violation of the Coastal Commission.
A nervous looking Trinh was at the meeting with his attorneys, who told the Council it would be an abuse of their discretion to deny the permit to Trinh’s company, Full of Flavor, LLC, because of unrelated legal issues with the Shore Hotel.
Trinh submitted a sworn agreement stating he has no relationship with the Shore, other than that of tenant and landlord. When Himmelrich asked for him to turn over a copy of the lease to reveal whether the Shore would share in any profits of the restaurant, Trinh refused, saying he had signed a confidentiality agreement.
Despite the presence of more than a dozen red shirt wearing union members who filled the chambers for the discussion, the public comment portion of the night overwhelmingly favored Trinh, as former employees, associates and young downtown dwellers testified in favor of granting the permit.
“The Avery team has already proved their ability to connect the community with the Craftsman, a favorite among the local residents and those who work in Downtown Santa Monica,” resident Kristina Gong said.
The Downtown Neighborhood Association and the Chamber of Commerce were among the groups who turned out to support Trinh.
“It’s a very humbling for me to see that because it shows that I’m doing something right for the community and the area,” Trinh said in an interview with the Daily Press. “Santa Monica has been part of my DNA in my adulthood and when I was in college and I look forward to opening (another) business here.”
The Councilmembers who voted in favor of the permit, Terry O’Day, Pam O’Connor, Mayor Ted Winterer, and Mayor Pro Tempore Gleam Davis say the restaurant will revitalize the corner of 2nd Street near the Colorado Esplanade and the Pier.
To Davis, any risk involving potential upcoming legal fallout for the Shore will not affect Trinh, not the City.
“If he’s willing to accept that risk, I don’t think it’s up to us to be parental,” Davis said.
For Trinh, the toughest hurdle may be over, but his new restaurant is far from a done deal. He still needs more permits, potentially from the Coastal Commission itself.
The alcohol permit will expire if Trinh leaves the space, unless the new tenant can also he or she is a separate entity from the Shore Hotel.
The Council stipulate several more conditions Trinh will have to follow: no discounts or specials for Shore Hotel guests that are not available to the public, Valet Parking must be at market rate, a back door linking the restaurant to the Shore cannot be used by the public or for deliveries to the Shore, and alcohol service will be limited to between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 a.m., except on weekends and holidays when the restaurant can begin serving at 7 a.m.