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Gjusta, No Friend to Venice Residents

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Gjusta, No Friend to Venice Residents

by: Concerned Residents of 320 Sunset and Save Venice

Gjusta- The Fakery

Venice, CA
Gjusta has been lauded by foodie blogs and magazines around the country, but what these publications don’t tell you about are the dozens of violations Gjusta has wracked up since opening. In fact, the violations are so rampant that the City of Los Angeles has two lawsuits pending against them. But due to the byzantine bureaucracy of Los Angeles, these lawsuits may not be enough to put Venice residents at ease.

For 15 months now, Fran Camaj has been operating Gjusta in direct violation of its Certificate of Occupancy which is solely for a “Take out Bakery- No seating.” This business which neighbors deem a nuisance, has been illegally running as a sit down full service restaurant, usurping valuable parking and creating constant dangerous traffic scenarios in the residential neighborhood.

With a full commercial kitchen equipment serving fish, beef and fowl, but only having a permit for bakery equipment and bakery retail take out with no seating or eating on the premises, many residents have dubbed Gjusta “The Fakery.”

“Trendy food goers may like Gjusta’s food, but when they hear the back-story, it doesn’t taste so good.”

Apparently, Camaj lied to Venice residents, originally stating he was only going to operate a bakery, a lie which the community perceived from the get go given his reputation with Gjelinas, his restaurant on Abbot Kinney. Gjusta, has also manipulated the L.A. City process in order to set up and operate it’s illegal restaurant which has residents up in arms. Gjusta has been cited by Department of Building and Safety several times yet has refused to comply. To add insult to injury, Gjusta is now asking the City to reward its illegal behavior by approving a full alcohol license and permitting them to “officially” operate a bar and restaurant just 13 feet from families’ homes. Gjusta’s owner thinks he can do whatever he wants with zero consequences. So far, he’s been right.

City Refuses to Enforce Blatant Violations by Gjusta

Shockingly, on August 11, 2015, despite all of the above and Camaj’s poor track record  (150+ page lawsuit filed by residents living near Gjelina’s) a bad neighbor at Gjelina’s for 8 years, Los Angeles Zoning Administrator (ZA) Maya Zaitzevsky granted Camaj his “change of use”  from “bakery-take out only” (something it’s never been) to a late night restaurant with full line of alcohol. Mind you this is 13 feet from residents’ homes. However, this doesn’t mean that Gjusta is lawfully able to operate, as they are NOT. When a project is under appeal, it is not entitled to operate until the entire appeal process is completed. Gjusta bar/restaurant is currently being appealed by the local community.

60 Venice community neighbors showed up to the Nov 13, 2014 Zoning hearing in opposition. They provided LA Zoning and City Council with hundreds of multiple-page, detailed letters with photos exhibiting violations. The State Alcohol Beverage Control ( ABC) were also provided similar documentation. ABC told Concerned Neighbors of 320 Sunset (CNS) that usually with so much opposition, an applicant withdraws their application. On May 6, 2015, Gjusta did just that.

Out of Towners  More Important than Venice Residents?

gjusta-venice-3

Gjusta then asked patrons to fill out postcards requesting that they wanted a restaurant with alcohol, they then sent those postcards to the City. It seems that a batch of postcards, most from out of the area (London, Laguna Beach, Topanga, Chicago, Irvine) carry more weight than comprehensive detailed opposition letters from actual Venice residents. To think the City of LA wants to add alcohol to this already proven community nuisance mix is ridiculous.

Venetians appealed this decision, and their hearing was scheduled for November 18, 2015. At this hearing, Camaj was granted a continuance and, in essence, allowed to continue operating outside of the law. This is a bad and dangerous precedent that has been set for the Venice community for future cases.

The West LA Area Planning Commission appeal hearing  scheduled for January 20th, 2016 was postponed , and will now be heard March 2, 2016 at 4:30pm at the Henry Medina -West LA Parking Enforcement Facility. The granted continuance is to enable public comment on the Revised MND (environmental report) which is still in circulation until February 8, 2016 and which you can find here.

“It is a very important step in the public’s right to be heard,” says Ilana Marosi. “This appeal can override the Zoning decision and reverse it. We must push for that, as it is the right thing for the community. We must request that the Area Planning Commission uphold our appeal and enforce a “BAKERY ONLY” operation at 320 Sunset.”

“This appeal can override the Zoning decision and reverse it. We must push for that, as it is the right thing for the community. We must request that the Area Planning Commission uphold our appeal and enforce a “BAKERY ONLY” operation at 320 Sunset. A high-turnover restaurant with excessive vehicular traffic exiting through a one-car only alley (next to residents’ homes) does not belong in Oakwood’s family-friendly neighborhood. And they want to add alcohol into this mix?”

– Ilana Marosi , CNS

Venetians Already Inundated with Alcoholic Establishments

The approval of Gjusta’s alcohol permit by the Zoning Administrator is disturbing because,  as clearly outlined in Alcohol and Beverage Control’s (ABC) guidelines, alcohol service should be a minimum of 100 feet from residential homes,whereas Gjusta is only 13 ft.  Many in the Venice Beach community concerned about the inundation of alcohol licenses in their neighborhood have called for a moratorium on alcohol licenses.

Sarah Blanch, a representative for the Institute of Public Safety said at the 1st April 2015, 259 Hampton Drive appeal, that research shows unequivocally, time and again, that there is absolutely a correlation between the number of bars, restaurants and stores selling alcohol and a whole range of community harms, including crime, drinking and driving, littering, loitering, excessive noise.

ABC’s current recommendation for this census tract (2733) is 3 onsite alcohol outlets. There are currently 14 onsite alcohol licenses. There is critical mass when it comes to what a community can bear. ABC is is supposed to be there to protect the livability of our communities and their recommendations should not be overlooked. Santa Monica, with a similar high density of alcohol licenses to Venice, is ranked in the highest quartile in LA County’s alcohol related crashes

At the 259 Hampton appeal in April last year, LAPD’s Captain Brian Johnson recommended denial of the liquor license, since this area of Venice’s an undue concentration of alcohol licenses. “Undue” meaning where and area has an over-concentration of alcohol and high crime rate. This is a serious consideration for the neighborhood. Pacific Division Vice Unit Sgt. Robin Richards and Sarah Blanch of the Westside Impact Project also recommended denial of alcohol at the 259 Hampton hearing. Denial of alcohol was upheld at the 259 Hampton location, and should be upheld here at Gjusta for the same reasons.

 

How YOU Can Help Venice Residents

Call: Councilman Bonin: 213-473-701

E-mail: Councilman Bonin:  councilmember.bonin@lacity.org  CC: concernedneighborvenice@gmail.com

Donate: Help us ensure the best legal representation! Make a donation at:  https://www.gofundme.com/helpsavevenice

Stay in Touch: concernedneighborvenice@gmail.com

Comment: on the revised MND (environmental report) which is still in circulation until February 8, 2016 and which you can find here.

Join Us: Come in person and speak out for our community on March 2, 2016 at 4:30pm: Henry Medina West LA Parking Enforcement Facility, 2nd floor, 11214 West Exposition Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, 90064

Bring any evidence and/or records of your complaints / violations to LADBS, LAPD, Noise, Fire Department or others to the hearing. Include dates and contacts/photos. Both here and at Camaj’s other operations (Gjelina/GTA).

Please bring at least one neighbor/friend who can be there in solidarity. We need bodies in the room – that speaks volumes. Even if you cannot speak, please be there in person on the night. Many voices make a big impact!

Thank You and tell them:

“No alcohol at Gjusta – 13 feet from residents’ homes! Our residential neighborhood cannot sustain such a gross intensification of operation which causes extreme traffic hazards and increases the dangers associated with alcohol.”

More articles regarding Gjusta at The Venice Beachhead

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  • Lord of Venice

    Such a NIMBY syndrome. it’s so sad. Venice is thriving because of places like Gjusta and god knows it needs more of them. The antiquated attitude to alcohol is even more bizarre – this is LA with all its abundant sunshine and there are so few places to sit outside and enjoy a drink sensibly. This town needs to take a leaf out of France, Italy, the UK, Spain etc when it comes to food and drinking. I’d love to get a cocktail before or after dinner but you can count on one hand where you can actually get a Gin and Tonic or a Martini with dinner. Beer and wine only. Where else in the world has such ridiculous licensing laws. As to Gjusta it was a run down old warehouse before and now it’s a fantastic community spot. Good on ’em. More please.

    • Mousie

      Not NIMBY, just anti-disrespect to the community we love. We welcome respectable development. Venice has always been thriving, perhaps you mean what the “new wave” considers thriving? Let me guess, your anonymous ass hasn’t been here more than 10 years. Venice is already inundated with alcoholic establishments, if you want Europe then please go there or back to Ohio.

      • SamoWill

        I have been here 40 years and I totally welcome Gjusta. What makes you the judge of what is “respectable” development. I welcome the restaurant owners who are working hard to making a living and adding vitality and energy to our community. Most of Venice was rundown years ago. I cannot see why we wouldn’t welcome these restaurant owners. They are working hard to make a living and adding to our community. I don’t see what is wrong with a restaurant serving alcohol. I don’t think the patrons of these high end restaurants are seriously causing problems in the community

        • Mousie

          Being a good neighbor and following laws is not a hard concept. Venice is already inundated with alcohol establishments or did you not read the article? You probably don’t believe it because you don’t live in Venice.

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