LAPD Hollywood Division Captain Peter Zarcone, who seems like a pretty decent guy even if he does look a little “like he had been disinterred for the express purpose of making people uneasy,”1 turned out to be the voice of what passes for ethical standards at the Joint Security Meeting on April 9, 2015. Here’s the story.
The JSC was, as usual, blethering on about how nightclubs are ruining everything and had pretty much agreed that the problem was lack of enforcement of the terms of liquor licenses. The issue is that type 47 licenses, which require a bona fide food service establishment, are being used as type 48 licenses, which do not require food to be served. See here for a description of the various types of California liquor licenses allowed.
The JSC agrees that there are just too many liquor licenses. In fact, listen here as John Tronson accuses one of his fellow zillionaires, possibly Argentinian impresario-about-town Adolfo Suaya of “What’s on Third,” possibly someone whose name we didn’t catch, of mucking everything up by getting “6 liquor licenses for every building he owns” (transcript after the break).
So Fabio Conti has the solution! The BID should go to liquor license hearings and… do what? Maybe tell the ABC that liquor licenses attract too many poor, dark-skinned people to Hollywood?!
Well, no, because as Peter Zarcone pointed out directly, there’s a conflict of interest in the BID’s taking a position against liquor licenses. The owners of the buildings pay for the BID and the bars and nightclubs pay the owners of the buildings. The BID is supposed to represent all the property owners in the district, not just the ones whose buildings house businesses that don’t exacerbate the weirdly puritanical crypto-racist displaced fears of John Tronson, Kerry Morrison, and Fabio Conti. Fabio, as quick as ever he was, suggests then that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce should be the group to push the issue.
After Peter mentioned this sticky issue, John Tronson, who’s nothing if not quick on the uptake, did a deft volte face, claiming that he is actually “a huge supporter of us taking a neutral position on all of those … liquor licenses,” contrary to everything he’d said previously. Kerry Morrison then sealed the deal by informing the group that this was “a key priority” for the Chamber and she’d be having lunch with Leron [Gubler, president and CEO of the Chamber] after the meeting.
The point is that the BID can’t officially take a position, so they pass it off to a private group, subject to no public oversight, to deal with it. This is the same move the City of Los Angeles tried to pull in the 90s when they created BIDs in the first place. They fought tooth, nail, horn, and claw, ultimately in vain, against judicial notice of the fact that the BIDs were carrying out municipal functions and were therefore public agencies. They still deny it, in fact, with respect at least to their security provider, Andrews International. But property owner Aaron Epstein got a court to drive a stake through the heart of that theory.
But nothing can kill the vampire of privatization of public matters. They just work through yet another layer of putatively private agencies, like the Chamber, like Andrews International. Some brave, rich, public-spirited people then have to go to court to peel back that layer of the onion only to find another putatively private layer. And meanwhile the BID uses the public money supplied by its own members to sit around on a Thursday morning discussing how to destroy their businesses for no sanely articulable reason whatsoever. One might see this instance of the snake biting itself as an example of Lenin’s vision of the general crisis of capitalism, but it’s not. This snake is a hydra.
John Tronson: You know, just uh sorta looking at it from a root cause, you know [unintelligible] Adolfo six liquor licenses in every building that he, he owns, you know, which he does every single time he buys a building he goes and applies for this, you know, this ridiculous amount of liquor licenses, and the whole building is, is, is serving booze and he’s, he’s trying to do the same thing right now at, um, Hudson, right next to the, you know, it used to be the [unintelligible] it’s that building on the corner, tryna, you know, all the way up Hudson, which is like adjacent to all the multi-family up there, there’s, that’s a tiny little street, and packed with bodies. Jane’s House is his, so, you know, it’s no coincidence that all of these spots with way too many people are, are, there’s this saturation of liquor licenses.
Fabio Conti: When they have these hearings, uh, [unintelligible] show up at these?
John Tronson: Of course.
Fabio Conti: Cause I went to that, I was, you know, [unintelligible].
Peter Zarcone: The bottom line is, what we’re tryina do is, is we’re trying to transform the character of the Boulevard to what it’s supposed to be. Um, it’s been very nightclub-centric for a long time, and that did help the economy, there’s no doubt about it, but what we’re hoping to more get to is more, uh, sane kinda nightlife, restaurant [unintelligible] so when liquor licenses are, for instance, on, the property on Hudson, [unintelligible], um, there was a request for multiple 48s…
John Tronson: Right.
Peter Zarcone: [unintelligible] equal number 48s and 47s. We kinda got them into [unintelligible] one 48 [unintelligible] that’s still not very good. The bottom line is the liquor licenses that are already approved are coming with restrictions to make them be a real restaurant, cause restaurants don’t make money after midnight, so [unintelligible] you can close at midnight…
John Tronson: Right, hours of operation.
Peter Zarcone: [unintelligible] be very strict about hours of operation, what they’re allowed to do, [unintelligible] restaurant license the ability to have a dance floor, and music, they’re not gonna be a restaurant, they’re gonna be a bar. And, so, not letting them do that, so we’re just being very smart about how we, uh, configure the 47 licenses that we say yes to. And even if we say no to something, you know, that’s just a recommendation. And then the zoning administrator, the zoning administrator gives their recommendation, and then ABC has ultimate authority, so [unintelligible] ABC grants a license, ABC grants a license, that’s [unintelligible]. But their, they, so far we’ve been very successful in hardening the restrictions that we want and we’ve been, we’ve been getting them.
John Tronson: Good.
Carol Massie: Is there any way that they can lose their license through violations?
Peter Zarcone: It’s not very easy.
Carol Massie: [unintelligible] considering how many of these [unintelligible]
Peter Zarcone: It takes a long time [unintelligible] you start out with a small fine, and [unintelligible] a bigger fine [unintelligible], so you have to really focus on one to get it all the way to the point where you’re gonna be able to, um…
John Tronson: And that’s like years, right?
Peter Zarcone: [unintelligible] it’s really, it’s really [unintelligible]
Fabio Conti: Uh, Kerry, does the BID go to these meetings at all? [unintelligible]
John Tronson: We don’t, but we should just sit on [unintelligible] for information [unintelligible]
Peter Zarcone: I understand [unintelligible] conflict, cause the BID is, is they’re property owners, they’re in business in the BID, they’re [unintelligible]
Fabio Conti: So Chamber probably? [unintelligible]
Kerry Morrison: Yeah, Chamber, Chamber is where [unintelligible]
John Tronson: Yeah, yeah, you know, and I’m a huge supporter of us taking a neutral position on all of those things [unintelligible] liquor licenses or any of those issues. But, uh, I do think that we should disseminate the information on when the hearings are to everybody and anybody who [unintelligible] next-door neighbor who is concerned.
Peter Zarcone: That’s really [unintelligible] neighborhood council’s [unintelligible]. They’re pretty on top of that issue, so the neighborhood councils [unintelligible] get the word out [unintelligible].
John Tronson: Anything else on that front, Kerry?
Kerry Morrison: No, I just wanted to [unintelligible] I know it’s gonna be a key priority in the [unintelligible]
Fabio Conti: Do we have already a time for that?
Kerry Morrison: Ah, Leron and I are having lunch after this meeting, and he actually, Joe’s gonna be at the Chamber this weekend, and [unintelligible]
Joe Mariani: [nonsensical whinging about this eminently sensible op-ed piece from the Times calling for more liquor licenses in LA].
All: [Generalized entitled chuckling about the inferiority of everyone who’s not at the table]
- Although often attributed to Albert Einstein, this bon mot is actually due to the sublime John Connolly, and it may be found on p.50 of his fine novel Every Dead Thing.
Images of Peter Zarcone and John Tronson are ©2015 MichaelKohlhaas.org. Super-cute image of Vladimir Lenin is in the public domain and we got it via Wikimedia.