THIRD STREET — Palihouse Santa Monica owners probably needed a drink after Wednesday night’s Planning Commission meeting.
Nearby residents, who showed up in large numbers, were victorious in quashing the boutique hotel’s push to serve alcohol.
After hearing more than 40 public speakers, the commission voted unanimously to deny a conditional use permit that would have allowed Palihouse Santa Monica — previously Embassy Hotel and Apartments — to provide booze to guests at a lobby bar and through in-room mini-bars.
The commission’s decision can be appealed to the City Council.
The 38-room hotel, which was purchased by the current owners in December of 2012 for $18 million, is located in the middle of a residential neighborhood at the corner of Third Street and Washington Avenue. A nursing home is across the street and multifamily apartment buildings are separated from the hotel by a narrow alleyway.
Residents’ primary gripe was with the potential noise created by rowdy, drunk guests.
Since the new owners took over, many residents said, the neighborhood has gotten a lot louder. Adding alcohol to the equation would only make things worse, they said.
Gale Feldman, whose daughter slept on her shoulder as she addressed the commission just before midnight, said her apartment faces the Palihouse’s back patio.
“Already the noise and the nuisance has increased tremendously,” she said. “Parties, even the ones that were at reasonable hours, were so loud that we couldn’t even conduct a conversation in our home. We’re exposed to smoke from the hotel staff and the hotel guests and I think it’s understood that alcohol and smoking go hand in hand so I see that increasing.”
Matt Fisher, an executive from Paligroup, the company that owns the Palihouse brand, said that they’ve faced push back from residents at other locations in the past, but that it always smoothes over.
“I think a lot of it is reasonable concern,” he said. “I know when we proposed our Palihouse in West Hollywood project years ago in neighborhood meetings we got a true outpouring of concern. … I think my answer has always been: Give us a chance. I think that today I’m pleased to report that at least on that property that was the case.”
Unite Here Local 11, a union representing hospitality workers, spoke against the liquor permit. Unite Here spokesperson Melanie Luthern noted that the hotel owners have not been responsive to the union’s requests to meet.
“In a politically active community like this one, failure to involve the community can create more than branding and headline risk for investors,” she said.
After hours of comment from the public, the commission reached its unanimous decision in less than 20 minutes.
“The parcel size is not suitable for the use because it’s so close to residential,” said Commissioner Jim Ries. “There’s already a noise impact just from the use itself. Typically I have a loud voice but you get a couple drinks in me and I have a much louder voice. … It’s the conflict of adding alcohol to individuals near residential when people are trying to be in their homes and have peace and quiet.”