Employees of the Eagle Rock Brewery are preparing themselves for their fourth conditional use permit (CUP) hearing in five years, set for Nov. 6, which will determine the extent of time they are permitted to do business.
The City of Los Angeles requires all new breweries to obtain a CUP before opening their doors and renew it again every ten years. During their first hearing with the Zoning Administration in 2009, Eagle Rock Brewery’s CUP was reduced from 10 years to five years after local property owner John Lynch filed a complaint against the new brewery. Lynch could not be reached for comment.
“I think because we were a new kind of business in the neighborhood, he didn’t really understand what we were out to do,” Marketing Director and brewer Andrew Bakofsky said. “It seems like he thought we were opening some kind of dive bar with hookers and drunk people pissing in the street and all that. That’s obviously not what we’re doing here.”
Despite the brewery’s clean track record, city planner Greg Shoop of the City Planning Commission said that the department must take every complaint seriously.
“[The brewery] is near residential areas, near the freeway. It’s a mix of residential and commercial entities,” Shoop said. “There’s a charter school nearby, so there’s going to be a lot of different opinions on alcohol, and sometimes people will be more sensitive. If they have enough parking, etc., people are afraid the detriments that come with alcohol use could spill into the neighborhood and cause disturbances.”
In order to obtain a CUP, the brewery must survey local opinions of its operations and apply to petition the zoning administration for a hearing. This year, the costs related to these hearings have risen to $8,000. Total costs have amounted to about $20,000 over five years, and this does not include the elevated taxes for businesses producing and selling alcohol.
According to Bakofsky, the brewery has consistently played by the rules and became a positive force in the community with no complaints. In fact, the brewery recently received commendations from Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell of District 13.
“The business has been an asset to community and they have been responsible business owners throughout the years,” O’Farrell’s Communications Director Tony Arranaga said. “Besides that, they have the support of the community, which is important to the councilmember as well.”
Despite the councilmember’s support, the brewery’s request to have this Nov. 6 hearing waived was not accepted.
“As it came time for this year’s hearing, we started the process early and requested the city to waive the hearing, and another $7,000-$8,000, as we had an outstanding record and a permit in good standing with the city. The request was denied, leaving us where we are today,” Bakofsky said.
According to Bakofsky, newer breweries such as Golden Road and Ohana Brewing have had an easier time getting started because they went to Eagle Rock Brewery for advice on what mistakes to avoid when applying for a CUP. However, Bakofsky said permits and application costs in Los Angeles—which are the highest in Southern California—make it hard for any small business, especially breweries, to stay afloat.
Despite the difficulties of running a small business in L.A., the Eagle Rock Brewery still manages to attract beer enthusiasts from Occidental and around California with its events and variety of seasonal brews, according to Bakofsky.
“We get a lot of good business from Occidental students. If you look at our earnings there’s definitely a spike when [they] are back in town,” Bakofsky said .
The Eagle Rock Brewery has plans to expand its operations despite mounting costs, according to Bakofsky. It will open a restaurant and brew pub within the next two months in the space formerly occupied by Fatty’s, near Trader Joe’s on Colorado Boulevard.