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Group to Appeal Rock & Brews Permit Denial

El Segundo's Rock & Brews—owned in part by rock star Gene Simmons—wants to open a new location in Riviera Village.

With a 4-3 vote, the Torrance Planning Commission on Wednesday denied an application to modify the conditional use permit and a precise plan of development for a proposed Rock & Brews where Oliver's sits on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Palos Verdes Boulevard.

Metsko Restaurant Group members Jon Mesko and Michael Zislis, who applied for the permit modification, indicated right after the meeting that they would appeal the planning commission's decision to the Torrance City Council.

All approvals must go through the city of Torrance because though the building has a Redondo Beach address, it is on the Torrance side of Avenue I.

The group wants to remodel the existing Oliver's building to fit with the aesthetic of the burgeoning Rock & Brews chain, which is owned in part by rock star Gene Simmons. The proposed restaurant, which would be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., would offer a selection of 52 beers, gastropub food, a children's play area and even a pet-friendly outdoor dining area, according to Zislis, a local restauranteur who owns the original Rock & Brews in El Segundo and the Shade Hotel in Manhattan Beach. The parking lot will be redone, and the restaurant's new footprint would be smaller than the current one.

"I'm going to open up an outdoor family friendly beer garden," Zislis explained. "We have one in El Segundo—it's kind of a nice place. We kind of blur the line between indoors and outdoors … We're not hiding anything; this isn't a 'Gotcha!' moment. This is an improvement to the area."

There will be no rooftop deck or live music, contrary to the claims of some neighbors, the group said. In response to neighbors' concerns, the group changed the restaurant design to feature a glass wall and no outdoor dining along Palos Verdes Boulevard.

There will be "absolutely never any live entertainment. I think there's like a little bit of a witch hunt out there," Zislis told the planning commission. "Nothing further from the truth."

During the public comment portion of the meeting, neighbors expressed concerns about noise from the restaurant, a possible decrease in property values, parking issues, traffic and public urination.

Speakers said that sound tends to carry at night, and Riviera Village is usually very quiet. Additionally, a local real estate agent told commissioners that "by approving this kind of project, this will set a precedent for like kinds of establishments in Riviera Village."

She also implied that allowing Rock & Brews to open would have the same effect as opening the bars on lower Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach. "Now (lower Pier Avenue) is just a lot of drinking, and a lot of noise, and it's become really a filthy area," she said.

Enough people spoke about the noise that commissioner Steve Skoll quipped, "We've heard the issue of noise, loud and clear."

Multiple neighbors also commented on the possibility of patrons urinating in the yards of Hollywood Riviera residents.

"To be frank, (Rock & Brews) is a bar. Got 50 beers on tap—it's a bar," said Anthony Rigolatto, who lives on Palos Verdes Boulevard. "We're going to see public intoxication when this place closes at 11 p.m. They'll be … urinating in front of my house, throwing garbage."

Hollywood Riviera residents also presented a petition against the proposed restaurant with more than 80 signatures.

Nevertheless, some people did come to support the permit approval. Barbara and Joseph Barker, a mother-son duo who live next door to the Rock & Brews in El Segundo, told the commission and neighbors that "(Zislis) always lived up to what he said he was going to do, and followed up" with residents in the area.

"I live about 200 feet from (Rock & Brews)," Joseph Barker said. "Never hardly hear anything out of the place. Don't have a problem in the evening with drunks … We've had absolutely no problems. These guys are great."

Toward the end of the meeting, Zislis and Mesko indicated that they were willing to continue to work with neighbors on noise and other issues.

Though the commission indicated that it would be amenable to continuing the hearing to a later date so members could check out the noise levels at the El Segundo Rock & Brews, members of the Mesko Restaurant Group requested a vote Wednesday night, noting that the restaurant had already been in the planning phase for months and it was a decision that would probably be appealed no matter what happened.

"If I'm forced to make a decision tonight, sir, my decision would be no," chairman Ray Uchima told Zislis.

Despite the vote, Mesko said he thought they "made some progress" with the neighbors. He noted after the meeting that Rock & Brews would bring additional tax revenue to the city, as well as possibly pitch in to sponsor city events that might be canceled due to budget woes, such as the Fourth of July fireworks.

"Rock & Brews is the kind of business that would pick that up," he said. "I like to contribute … I hope they see the benefit of this project to Torrance."

The Torrance City Council will hear the appeal during a future meeting.

Anna B. October 24, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Yes, actually a good many of us "complainers" have visited the El Segundo site. The location there is vastly different than where it would be in this new location. That is a much more commercial and noisy area than the residential one in which the current Oliver's now sits. Even if the noise generated is no greater than El Segundo, it will travel over an extremely quiet residential area. This has nothing to do with how cool or retro the place is, nor with how family- or dog-friendly it is. It's just about the noise! Anna B.
Paul Gerencher October 25, 2012 at 09:25 AM
Yes Torrance...At PV and PCH the problem is road noise and PV blvd speed enforcement. Do you realize how much money you can make by just ticketing the speed limit violators on PV blvd? It was hilarious to watch the CBS interview complaning about potential noise from Roxk and Brews while watching all those cars zoom by that lady's balcony.
Nimby 90277 October 25, 2012 at 07:41 PM
So far, it's got my No for a couple of reasons: 1. …"family friendly beer garden" Really? Isn't that the biggest oxymoron ever? Every beer garden I've been to was 21 and older, and for good reasons. The Village is not the place for "that". There's already an abundance of places in the Riv that actually are family friendly where one can also have a beer and a nosh. 2. They're really going to close at 11PM? And what if they change their minds and decide to party on 'til 2AM?? 3. Yeah, PCH/PVB has traffic and noise, but this stretch of PCH does quiet down a bit after 9-10PM (I live on PCH), whereas 'Gundo has perpetual higher ambient sound from LAX, refinery, etc. 4. Am I the only one concerned about all the EF International Language School students that can't even cross the street there in front of their own "campus"? I imagine they'd be the prime demographic fit for a rock ‘n roll beer garden concept, and I just can't imagine them wandering back to their apartments, drunk, late at night, across PCH/PVB. Zislis would have to hire a crossing guard for them. Probably chaperones, too
Nicole Mooradian October 26, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Hey, everyone—we've posted a poll on this very issue. Weigh in here: http://redondobeach.patch.com/articles/poll-should-rock-brews-open-in-riviera-village
Paul Gerencher October 27, 2012 at 04:48 AM
Nimby, you do realize that there are are plenty of places in riviera village to get a beer? This is a gastro pub with a beer garden theme. In El Segundo, that theme means communal tables where everyone can socialize. The restaurant is actually really good. And yes it is family friendly and that is the point (there are not enough of those type of establishments). This is a place where fathers can bring the baseball team after a game and enjoy some good pizza or burgers. He beer is not the point. Think of Sofie's place or Bouzy at Chez Malange, they are not "bars" in the traditional sense.

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