Beer Activist Alert!

Hey LA Craft Beer lovers!  Would you like to enjoy more of what the Craft Beer world has to offer for LA?  Well, here’s how you can do your part…

The folks who brought you Tony’s Darts Away in Burbank, are planning a new, and even more spectacular project in Echo Park.  But…their liquor license is being protested by a small but loud group of residents.

We’ve dealt with this same sort of nonsense before, so you all know the drill.  Everyone (especially Echo Park residents) please show your support for this project by showing up to tell the City, and the Neighborhood Council how great this would be for your neighborhood.  This includes (but is not limited to the creation of new jobs!)  The Craft Beer world continues to flourish, even in our current economy, and has the ability to create community and a sense of locality for people of all walks of life.

There is a neighborhood meeting tomorrow night: Wednesday, August 18 at 7:00 pm at Barlow Hospital (Williams Hall)  2000 Stadium Way  Los Angeles, CA 90026

To learn more go to www.facebook.com/mohawkla.

Plan Checks and Corrections…

A few posts back (about a month ago), I mentioned that our Building Plans had been approved by the Health Department, which was very exciting indeed.  Then, just a few days after our plans were stamped I took them over to the Dept. of Building and Safety for yet another approval process.

After they had our plans for three weeks, they finally gave them back with lots of red lines (corrections) on them, and a stack of papers detailing several “clearances” we need to get through before they will give us an approval.  Actually though, now that I’ve spent almost a week working through these corrections, I’m realizing that they aren’t really that bad.  In fact, most of the corrections deal with Accessibility Compliance (for wheelchair access, etc.), so it is just a matter of having the correct width for hallways and doorways, and the correct height for tables, etc.

As far as the “clearances” they are requesting, these have to do with other City agencies (like Fire Dept, Planning Dept, etc.).  Not a huge deal, but kind of frustrating from the perspective of process and efficiency.  It seems as though every process involving the City, has to go through LOTS of different departments that never really communicate with each other.  So if you want to accomplish anything, you need to spend lots of time running around and paying each department their own “processing” fee.

Oh well…After a year of dealing with this slow moving bureaucracy, at least I know what to expect, and how to navigate through it all with a little less frustration.  I guess the really important thing here, is that we are finally very close to starting our construction phase.  We just need to finish these corrections, re-submit to the plan checker, (get approval), and then pull the building permit.  I can actually start to see a light at the end of this long and crazy tunnel!

Success, Round Two

Yes, success!  We made it through our public hearing on Wednesday evening, and the appeal against our conditional use permit was denied.  Big, huge sigh of relief.  Thank you to everyone who showed up to support us, and especially those who spoke on our behalf.  We appreciate it so much, and wouldn’t have been as successful without you.

So glad it’s over though.  Maybe now I can stop having those stress-related stomachaches, and sleep through the night without being waken by panic attacks.  But I doubt it.  At least now we can finally move past this part of the process, and on to the next bureaucratic hurdle.

I mentioned a couple posts back that our TTB (federal) license was approved, and we received it in the mail on Thursday.  Our ABC license has already been applied for, and is currently being processed.  Our building plans were approved by the Health Department a week ago, and were subsequently submitted to Building & Safety for approval.  Once we get that approval from Building & Safety we can pull our building permits and finally start the build-out.  At long last!  We’re so close, I can almost taste the sweet wort running from the mash tun!

Public Hearing, Round Two

That’s right.  Because it was so much fun the first time, we’re having another public hearing regarding our conditional use permit.

The hearing will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 4:30 pm at:

Ramona Hall Community Center
4580 North Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90065

We would LOVE to have some supporters there to cheer us on, so please feel free to join us.  As usual, there will be other hearings on that day, so the start time for our hearing may be pushed slightly.  Just be aware of that, and maybe bring a book or magazine to read while we wait.

As many of you already know, our conditional use permit was approved earlier this year, after our original public hearing, but the decision was appealed by a nearby industrial property owner.  His concerns are that our tasting room will create parking problems on the street, and that it will become a hangout for local gangs.  Obviously, if you are reading this blog, you’re probably accuately aware of how unfounded these concerns are.  Unfortunately though we live in a giant city, run by a giant bureaucracy, and we are still subject to all of the outdated processes that the city continues to use.  Joy.

Anyway, we hope to see some of you there tomorrow, to push past this one last, big hurdle on the road to our opening day.  Cheers!

More Good News!

What a great way to start the weekend…Today I found out that our TTB application has been approved!  This means that we now have our federal license to brew beer commercially.  Of course, we still need our state brewer’s license from the ABC, and then the building permits to actually put together our facility, but hey…we’re now one big step closer!

The TTB (or Tax and Trade Bureau) is the arm of the federal government that regulates the manufacturing of alcohol and other sorts of things (it used to be called the ATF…).  The application process was a bit involved, but nowhere near as bad as the application for our Conditional Use Permit.  Basically they ask you a bunch of questions about your proposed operations, such as solid waste and waste water considerations, energy usage, type and extent of security considerations, and a general overview of the operation.  Then they do an extensive background check, including checking on the source of your financing.  I suppose the reason for this is that they want to make sure some criminal isn’t financing your brewery.  The final step is a telephone interview where they go over most of the same questions.  From what I gather, the federal government isn’t too concerned about all the specific details of your operation, but they just want to make sure that you’re paying your taxes, and that none of your beer is stolen.

Another bit of good news is that I submitted our building plans to the Department of Building & Safety today.  I wasn’t able to do this until we had our approval from the Health Department, so it felt good to finally be able to submit it.  Anyway, this will be the final step before we can start the construction phase, so it seems like we can finally see the home stretch!  They said it will take about two weeks for them to complete the plan check, but I think I’ve heard that story a few times before….I’ll keep you all posted when I actually get a response though.

Where to begin…

Sorry folks…I know it has been a long time since my last post updating our progress.  So much has been happening though…where to begin?

LACABAL

First of all I should give a shout out to the first annual LACABAL Craft Beer Festival that took place in Echo Park this past weekend.  It was a very well attended event with lots of great local (when possible) craft beers, food pairings, live music, and special guest speakers.  I was impressed by the turn-out and encouraged to see that there is a real demand for the existence of great craft beer in LA!  I can’t wait to pour our beers for everyone at the event next year.

As far as progress toward opening our doors, things have been a bit less than exciting over the last few weeks.  Back in March, I made a post about our conditional use permit being approved.  Well, 15 days later, at the end of the “appeal period” following the hearing, someone decided to appeal the decision of our approval.  Can you believe it?!  I know…I couldn’t either.

The person appealing is a co-owner of some of the industrial properties on our street, but not an occupant.  In fact this person doesn’t even live in this community, or in LA County!  Honestly, I’m not very worried about our decision being over-turned, but now that the appeal process has begun, we have to go through it and deal with all of the headaches and delays that it involves.

In other news, we are still dealing with the Health Department, and have an appointment to re-submit our plans on May 20th.  I’m hoping everything goes well, and that we can move on to the next step after that.

On a more positive note, we are getting ready to roll out our official website soon, and will also have some merchandise available in the coming weeks.  Yes, it may seem like we’re putting the cart before the horse by releasing merchandise before we release beer, but believe me…every little bit of revenue helps at this point – especially with the added costs of paying for rent while we wait for the appeal process to take its course.

As the old addage goes “Things will get harder before they get easier…”.  But, hang in there folks!  We’re closer now than ever before!

Hurry Up and Wait…

After the emotional high of last week (getting our Conditional Use Permit approved), I was hoping to get another boost this week with a plan-approval from the Health Department. But alas, *sigh* no such luck.

I was able to speak with one of the plan checkers though, and they told me we should be getting a response from them early next week.  Apparently there are only 3 sets of plans on the shelf in front of ours, and the work of reviewing those plans is divided between two people.  However, after running this statement through my handy “Bureaucratic Translator” I discovered that the reality looks more like 2-3 weeks.  Luckily I have some experience at this waiting game, and I know just how to handle it.  What’s the secret?  It’s simple…Bug the holy hell out of them with lots of friendly phone calls!  What’s that you say? …Oh…yes, I’ll hold…

The Results Are In…

Wooo Hooo!  Just got back from our public hearing, and our Conditional Use Permit has been approved!!!  I feel like a giant weight has been lifted off my chest, and I can finally breathe a big sigh of relief.  So that’s what I’m doing right now…  Oh, and enjoying a celebratory drink or three!

So, what does this all mean?  Well, basically this approval means that the City of Los Angeles will allow us to operate a beer-tavern, with an attached microbrewery at this location.  In other words, we are allowed to commercially brew beer in our building, and to sell that beer to the public for both on-site and off-site consumption.

Now don’t get too excited just yet…We still have to get our approvals from the Health Department and Building & Safety, and we still need our state and federal licences before we can legally sell beer.  BUT – getting approval from the City of LA was probably the biggest hurdle we had to overcome, and now we’ve done it!

However, because we were already able to start the application process for all of the things I just mentioned, things are going to start happening very quickly now.  Be sure to stay tuned!!!!!