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.

Doh!

I guess I was being optimistic to think we would pass our very first inspection…but we didn’t.  I should have known better than to think we were past the red-tape phase.

So, the inspector had a few minor changes to our layout, but the most annoying of the bunch was really just a technicality involving insurance.  I had pulled the permits with our General Contractor (who has his own insurance) but since he wasn’t doing most of the plumbing work, they wanted to have the plumber under the GC’s insurance.  Either that, or they wanted to have the permits under the plumber’s name (since he also has his own insurance).  The solution was to simply transfer the permit to the plumber.  Of course this extra step involed an additional fee, but would you honestly expect anything less from our good city?

So here we are again, with an appointment for a rough plumbing inspection set for sometime tomorrow.  Hopefully we’ll pass this time.  I really want to get rid of all this dirt, and pour back the concrete soon!

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.

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!!!!!

About the Public Hearing

Lately lots of folks have been asking about our public hearing, and if we need people to show up for support.  First of all, I just want to say thank you to those folks for their interest and encouragement.  And second, I’d like to say…yes!  Anyone can show up (since it’s open to the public), and we would LOVE to see some familiar, friendly faces there.

If you are so inclined (and happen to be free on a Thursday afternoon), here’s the details on where & when:

Los Angeles City Hall
200 North Spring Street, Room 1020
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(Enter from Main Street)

Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 2:30 pm.

If you do plan to attend, be sure to bring an ID (you have to go through a security check to get into City Hall), and probably a good book (it can get pretty boring in there).  Also, once you are in the hearing room if you’d like to give a statement, you’ll be asked to give your name and address (both written & verbally) before you say your thing.

I went to observe some similar hearings earlier this week, to have a better idea of how to prepare, and they’re really not that bad.  The atmosphere is definitely “official”, but its not intimidating.  The Zoning Administrator basically controls the flow of the meeting, and is constantly asking questions and gathering information.  Most hearings last around 30 minutes, but it all depends on the complexity of the case and the amount of public interaction.  Hopefully our hearing will go pretty quickly, and (more importantly) there will be a decision at the end.

Maybe we’ll see you there, but if you can’t make it, try to send some good vibes our way!

Save The Date

Finally some good news from the city!  I just found out they have scheduled an actual date for our public hearing, March 5, 2009 at 2:30 pm, in City Hall.

Although it is much later than they had previously estimated (mid-January), it feels really good to have an actual date to put on the calendar.

Now we wait some more, and continue to prepare.  If all goes well, our Health Department permits and Building & Safety permits will be finished around the same time…