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Changes for Los Rios Street Businesses Up in the Air

One city commission is OK with outdoor sales outside the Lupe Combs house but not as excited for beer and wine at the Hummingbird House Café.

Outdoor sales may return to a Los Rios Street icon, but the serving of beer and wine may not ever happen.

Owner Monica Mukai bought the Lupe Combs House, which houses the  at the corner of Verdugo and Los Rios streets, in 2005.

The features homeowners operating businesses out of their homes, but Mukai found it difficult to live right on top of the railroad tracks.

So she decided to lease her property, and at one point had three tenants. However,  because the way the city law is written, owners who don’t live in their Los Rios homes can’t offer outdoor sales.

Mukai is now asking the city to change the law.

“Tina’s Garden is excited and anxious to come back,” Mukai told the Cultural Heritage Commission Tuesday night. Mukai’s requests need to go through the Cultural Heritage and Planning commissions before a ruling from the City Council.

While Mukai was considering changes to her property, she also decided to ask for permission to allow tenant to serve beer and wine.

And, she’d also like to add a bathroom to the ancillary building on her property, the one that used to be a jailhouse in days gone by. The building abuts the Ramos House Café and currently houses retail clothier .

The employees at Blue-Eyed Girl have to shut down the store just to use the facilities either at Hummingbird or at , Mukai said. And since they’ve also had to take down their outdoor display – a historical depiction of a clothesline – sales have dropped.

The owners won’t renew their lease if the restriction on outdoor sales isn’t lifted, Mukai said.

The members of the Cultural Heritage Commission said they didn’t have any hesitations recommending outdoor sales.

“It makes sense,” said Rhonda Dehaan, commission chairwoman.

Sales of beer and wine, however, is a whole other proposition, commissioners said.

Beer and Wine OK for Some, Not Others

Hummingbird House Café owner said he needs to sell beer and wine with his sandwiches and wraps to push him into profitability.

“We have a lot of friendly customers,” Tsekov said. “We need a little more business to survive and pay off our investment.”

Because all businesses have to shut down by 5 p.m., he added that he doubts the alcohol sales would contribute to any nuisances.

Alcohol sales are prohibited in Los Rios, but two establishments – the and the – were grandfathered in when the law briefly accommodated requests to serve beer and wine.

To Tsekov, that didn’t seem fair.

“I feel like I have the same rights as everyone else, even though I’m a foreigner. I pay the same taxes,” he said.

But the Commission did draw a line and say the Tea House and Ramo House are different.

“Ramos House and the Tea House are very special,” said Commissioner Jan Siegel. “They’re not a place where you go to for a wrap or sandwich. [They’re] not fast food.”

One of the bigger issues is that the other businesses on the street have resident owners and Hummingbird does not, Dehaan said.

“I think you’re trying to treat it like any other place, and that’s what’s bothering me,” she said. “When you go to the Ramos House or the Tea House, it’s like you’re a guest in somebody’s home.”

Said Commissioner Banda: “I don’t think it’s good for the community. There’s enough establishments down there.”

Bathroom for the Jailhouse?

Finally, commission members weren’t totally opposed to the bathroom for the former jailhouse, but they didn’t like the idea of a bathtub going in.

Mukai said city staff had recommended it, so it would give her the option to switch the use from storefront to residential. At one point, she had suggested turning it into a bed and breakfast.

The Planning Commission will hear the matter next at its Sept. 11 meeting.

wschrimp August 30, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Once again, city rules make no sense. These are simple request being asked by homeowners in the district, that would allow their homes to be more livable and their businesses to continue to be profitable. This brings more people into our city. It is one thing to dictate no outdoor modernization, or paint colors, but it is another to tell these owners what they can do inside their homes. Also, if you allow outdoor sales and beer and wine sales within the district, then it is wrong to say that a business cannot do it because they were not here first, or the business owner does not live on the property. This city and it's over regulation of not only the Los Rios District, but of the entire city, is continuing to drive business out of town. If they are not careful, this city will be following San Bernardino right into bankruptcy.
Dusty W Otero August 30, 2012 at 08:17 PM
How many much more Alcohol is going to be sold in my town? a bunch of drunks..I am glad our city doesn't give all of you booze hounds drinking stops all over the valley..Now u have a wine room right across from a theater oh great and drinks at the theater oh great,,,ye3s our kids will learn how to drink....
sjcnative1 September 11, 2012 at 06:51 PM
She said she could not live on top of the railroad tracks (third paragraph). Nothing the City does will make living there any easier.
Kim September 12, 2012 at 04:01 PM
wschrimp..it's not the City or it's regulations on business that will lead us down the same path as San Bernardino. In fact, as we have seen on numerious occasions, the City does not even bother to enforce many of it's own City codes or laws. What will run this City into bankruptcy are the wrong votes made by several City Council members that illustrates their lack of vision and business sense over "huge" money deals. That's the issue, not selling wine or beer on Los Rios Street.

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