Views Mixed at Town Meeting on Beer and Wine at Local Coffee Place

Over a hundred people crowded the patio at Fix Coffee on Echo Park Avenue to weigh in on whether it should become a restaurant serving beer and wine.

For many months, Mark Gallucci has been meeting with the Echo Park Chamber of Commerce, the Echo Park Improvement Association and the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council trying to build support for  his plans to transform his popular into a full-fledged restaurant serving beer and wine.

Wednesday night he decided to call his own meeting, what he called a "Town Hall" on Fix's plans.  According to Gallucci, a state liquor license would be part of a larger plan to serve food, and expand the kitchen and seating under a "conditional use permit" from the city.

The idea has been kicking around for a while. For several months, a petition supporting the idea has greeted patrons as they check out at Fix. Several thousand people have signed it.

But Wednesday's meeting brought out many opposed to the idea.

Visual artist and property-owner Peter Shire asked,  "Do we want this to be a commercial strip?" He noted that had refused to rent to a tenant who wanted to start a restaurant serving beer and wine.

Homeowner Irene Amaro worried, like many, about the parking, traffic and noise issues that a restaurant attracting outsiders would create.

"Echo Park echoes, " she said, noting that she lived directly across the street from Fix on Echo Park Avenue. "My house is my investment."

Walter Elmer, a former teacher at , just across the street from Fix, also came out against the move, though he had lots of praise for Fix.

"This was a blighted corner for many years," he said.' "Now, it's a great community gathering place."

But Elmer urged the crowd to "Just Say No" to beer and wine at Fix, pointing to the site's proximity to four elementary and preschools.

Supporters of Fix commended Marc Gallucci's efforts to engage with the community throughout the two years the cafe has been open.

Christine Peters said many of the same objections came up when what is now the --just off Sunset Boulevard on Echo Park Avenue--was being created.

She reminded the crowd that Fix hoped to operate under a conditional use permit, which would allow for complaints and a one-year review.

Local activist Rosie Betanzos was the last speaker of the night. A life-time Echo Park resident--whose godparents owned property in the area--she said she showed up to support Fix and the idea of a neighborhood restaurant.

"Call it gentrification, call it whatever you want," she said, "but you can walk in Echo Park now, and it's because of businesses along Echo Park Avenue."

"This guy has gone out of his way to talk to you, "she added.  "'He didn't have to do this. And that's integrity."

For his part, Gallucci was pleased with the evening.  He said he and consultant Kyoshi Graves will take all of what they heard quite seriously.

As for when his applications will be formally submitted, Gallucci said "we've still got a way to go."

Becca Dorman April 28, 2011 at 11:49 PM
Obviously, much has been made of the (gasp) proposed beer/wine license, and I think the Anti-camp's stance suffered from an overuse of hyperbole. At least 3 speakers warned of the increase in "violent crime and property theft" directly attributable to the sale of beer and wine, an argument that just doesn't hold much water here. I mean, I can't say for certain, but I'm reasonably sure Fix isn't going to be offering a $4 PBR/free tequila shot special. This proposal still carries significant implications for those of us living in the vicinity. We are fortunate to have such a peaceful little spot, and it's understandable that many would like to keep it that way. It's obvious that the parking situation (while legal under current zoning, as Marc pointed out), isn't going to be good enough. Still, I think we should give Marc and the rest of the Fix crew the chance to address these issues rather than simply dismissing his idea out of hand. One word I heard repeated by people from both camps was "community," and that's significant. The fact that so many people turned out for a preliminary town hall shows we all care about Echo Park and want what's best for our community, even if we don't see eye to eye. I think it's unlikely that expanding Fix into a bistro is going to destroy our community or turn it into Sunset the sequel; indeed, a local watering hole could potentially foster community by bringing neighbors together over a glass of wine—or maybe just some dinner.
Susan April 30, 2011 at 09:27 PM
I was at this meeting and would like to make a couple of corrections to your report. Even Marc didn't claim he had "several" thousand signatures; he said he had close to two thousand. There's an elementary school, a pre-school and a Head Start for a total of just three schools (unless someone has quietly opened a fourth recently).
Joe April 30, 2011 at 09:38 PM
There is 4 across echo park is the montessori school, a few doors north of that on the same side of the street is a pre school, across baxter is the elementary school and down the street south of that is the head start.
Susan April 30, 2011 at 09:54 PM
Sorry--Joe is right! I had forgotten about the daycare center north of the pre-school.
Joe April 30, 2011 at 11:14 PM
I live a block from Fix and I have lived here for 18 years. The schools have been here way before Fix came into the community. Thats 4 schools! With 3 schools next door and across the street from Fix and a head start a block or 2 from it. It would be safe to say this is a school zone and being a school zone defines the identity of this particular block. These schools provide an important service for a huge portion of the community. I can't justify the impact Fix's beer and wine license and later hours will have on this school zone (parking, safety and traffic). This block especially with the schools is not really designed to handle safely an increased traffic. I was at the meeting with my 21 month old son. I felt that the people for the license talked about how much they like Fix and would like a place to have a nice meal and drinks and the people against it addressed the impact on the block safety the impact on the schools the increased traffic which none of these issues where addressed by the people for the license. I also mentioned that the petition Marc had with almost 2,000 signature never made it to my street 1 block away and got applauded by over half the attendees (maybe they didn't get a notice about this either?) I've thought about this further and considered how would it impact the neighborhood if the license wasn't awarded and after consideration decided id go for a beer at taix.


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