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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.

Boyd D. Baker October 23, 2012 at 05:23 PM
I've been to the Rock & Brews in El Segundo, it's not a noisemaker. And, closing at 11:00 PM is not the same as closing at 2:00 AM, as is the case in Hermosa. You don't tend to get a lot of drunks from a place closing at 11:00 PM. I live on PV Blvd just above the Village, and I think it would be a good addition. It's a nice place to go eat and have a couple beers.
aka6161 October 23, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Good Morning, Thank You for reporting on this important issue. Jon Mesko stated at the meeting their group had been planning this for months... My question to him would be "why did you only contact the neighbors after they investigate why the flags were on top if Oliver's". There was not contact before our letters of concern to the city. My personal opinion of Zislis and his group is very high, but no amount of his generous donations to the City of Torrance will change my point of view of a Beer Garden with a SHED structure with no sides. It doesn't fit in this quaint community where everyone knows each other.... From the store owners to tenants living on the Avenues to the Homeowners in Hollywood Riviera , we deserve better. I believe Mesko has already appealed and will go in front of City of Torrance Council in November. Thanks again for reporting
Paul Gerencher October 23, 2012 at 08:38 PM
I would love to see Rock and Brews at this location. This is a family friendly business and perfect for our neighborhood.
Mizz Terri October 23, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Maybe Zislis should put Rock N Brews in Redondo on his Shade Hotel site instead. It would fit perfectly there; the site's highest and best use is for a restaurant and it's next door to the Cheesecake Factory. Plus, RB City Council is miffed that nothing's happening with the hotel, since Zislis' attention is on Rock N Brews. I think the Oliver's location has bad feng shui anyway.
Frank Capper October 23, 2012 at 10:00 PM
I have lived close to Riviera Village for many years... And have been eating at the various establishments at this location for the past 35 years.. I was so excited to see such great venue show interest in occupying this property. I wish all these people complaining, would worry more about the economy and upcoming election, than harping on a established franchise, that is sure to bring much need tax dollars to the city. Maybe at the Grand Opening I will buy you all a "Cold One"... So you can CHILL!!! ~DC
Boyd D. Baker October 23, 2012 at 11:14 PM
I think a restaurant of Rock & Brews caliber would destroy any negative vibe that may exist at that location.
Judy Brunetti October 24, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Rock & Brews sounds like a fun place, just not the kind of place that they're looking for in the Riviera Village. With the roll-up doors, big screen TVs pumping out rock music videos, extensive beer menu (with high-alcohol content brews) and the indoor-outdoor beer garden, it's just too noisy and too rowdy for the area. Put it in another part of Torrance!
maureen October 24, 2012 at 04:22 AM
I would love to know if any of the complainers have visited the El Segundo rock n brews at various times/ days? My husband and I go often ( we live in RB) because its dog friendly and a nice place to have a burger and a beer. I have gone for several after work celebrations- the place is fun but not obnoxious. Very family friendly. Please- it will be a 100% improvement over the Bullpen. If you haven't visited- do yourself a favor and check out the El Segundo location. You will be surprised at how cool and retro rock & roll it is. I just wish that they would sell the vintage rock concert tee shirts. my hubby and I are both corporate execs over 50- we don't frequent hermosa because it's too wild.
Boyd D. Baker October 24, 2012 at 03:22 PM
I agree Maureen...I found the Rock & Brews in El Segundo to be fairly laid back. I think that Zislis and Co. also plan to modify the design of the Riviera location to better align with local noise standards. While I understand concerns of those who live adjacent to the property, I think those concerns will be allayed when they see what this restaurant is all about. And, I also wish they would sell vintage tees...as I wish I had kept some of my original tees from concerts of years past.
Richard Root October 24, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Here are the facts. Acoustics experts say a "busy restaurant" has a noise level above 75 dB (decibels). The City of Torrance, where the proposed restaurant would be located, has a law that says, "It shall be unlawful for any person on land used for commercial purposes to produce noise levels at his own property boundary in excess of 60 dB during the day or 55 dB during the night." The way noise is measured 75 dB is four times as loud as 55 dB. Since Rock and Brews is essentially an outside restaurant, it's difficult to see how it would comply with the law.
Tom Priest October 24, 2012 at 04:50 PM
I find it interesting to hear all the complaints about noise....PV Blvd and PCH might as well be a freeway for godsakes! The car noise alone will drown out anything being generated at the restaurant. People voting it down would rather see a vacant lot there I guess...Because THAT it what the last thee businesses have been.
sheri patterson October 24, 2012 at 05:20 PM
If concerned residents checked out the Rock & Brews in El Segundo, they would see what a family friendly place this is. To say this establishment would turn Riviera Village into Hermosa is an exaggeration. Zislis has been good for So Bay business and has a great reputation. To hear the folks talk about this being a crazy bar with drunks and urination-- that is NOT the case in El Segundo. What a shame.
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 (Editor) 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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