Booze banned from proposed Circle K

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The proposed Circle K on Pacific Coast Highway just south of Rambla Pacifico can be built, but the owners will not be allowed to sell alcohol. The Planning Commission last week on Tuesday voted 4-0 to allow for the conversion of the current car repair station and snack shop behind the Spirit gas station into a convenience store, but denied the owners’ request for a conditional-use permit to sell beer and wine. A member of the family owning the property said this week that he would not immediately challenge the ruling, but left open the possibility to do that sometime down the road.

The commissioners said they were bothered by the possibility of approving a new alcohol-selling business when there were already several restaurants and stores doing so in the local vicinity. They also expressed a concern about alcohol being sold there because the property contains a gas station, and is in a residential neighborhood, with a condominium located just behind the facility.

“It is in the kind of place where you do not want people buying a six-pack of beer and chugging it down while they drive away,” said Commission Vice Chair John Sibert, who agreed with two other commissioners that the selling of alcohol at gas stations should be outlawed in the state.

Commissioner Carol Randall, who lives not far from the property in a home to the east on Pacific Coast Highway, said she did not see a public need for selling alcohol.

“What I’m concerned about is that we’re creating a public nuisance,” Randall said. “This is being called a convenience store, but it’s a convenience for what? For whom? I really don’t see it as a major convenience for the residents in that general area.”

The proposal to sell alcohol created uproar among local residents. More than 120 people signed a petition against it and an opposition advertisement was placed in this newspaper prior to the meeting. More than three-dozen residents of the area came to the meeting to speak against the granting of the conditional-use permit, or CUP.

Barry Glaser, a lawyer who lives in the adjacent condominium, said he was pleasantly surprised by the commission’s decision, especially since city staff had recommended approval of the CUP. A deputy from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station had also signed a document supporting the CUP.

“I talked to some of my attorney friends that specialize in that area, and they also were pleasantly surprised that the commissioners listened to the community, notwithstanding the staff recommendation” said Glaser, who is the husband of The Malibu Times writer Kim Devore. She also spoke at the meeting against the CUP, and helped create the petition.

The property was purchased last year by a father and two sons from Encino. The family has been in the jewelry business for more than 50 years and this is their first experience in the convenience store business. One of the co-owners, Mehran Sarraf, said this week in an interview that he was disappointed with the commission’s decision, but for now he’ll “deal with it” and won’t file an appeal.

“At the moment we’re going forward just the way it is [without selling alcohol],” Sarraf said. “If we have the support of the Malibu community and they help us in succeeding without it [beer and wine], maybe we don’t need it.”

Sarraf attended the meeting last week, but did not speak. His architect, Harry Heady, did the talking as he tried to defend the selling of alcohol at the store. Had the commission granted the CUP, the Sarrafs would still have needed to obtain a license from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Local approval is required for an ABC license. Planning Manager C.J. Amstrup said even if somehow the Sarrafs got the ABC approval, the city would still be able to enforce the commission’s decision.

The commission’s vote technically did not finalize the approval to create the Circle K and deny the CUP. Rather, it requested that city staff come back with a resolution for the commissioners to vote on that includes prohibition of alcohol sales.

Although the commission denied the ability to sell alcohol, a CUP is still needed in addition to the coastal development permit to transform the business.

A city Planning Division official told The Malibu Times this week that it has still not been decided what the hours would be for the Circle K.

In addition to converting the 1,600-square-foot building on the property into a Circle K, the Sarrafs plan to enlarge the landscaping from 298 square feet to 2,327 square feet and parking spaces will be added to total 11, not counting the eight spaces at the gas pumps. Mehran Sarraf said this week that the store could be ready for service sometime mid-next year.