Lose Candlelight, Lose Revenue

This week, the Simi Valley Planning Commission showed Candlelight Nightclub no love according to the Simi Valley Acorn on Friday.  The Planning Commission voted to send the matter back to the City Council, but only after a 3 hour session including comments from approximately 30 area residents and remarks from the commissioners.

“When you have a CUP, and you have residents that are going to be impacted by it saying ‘no,’ it’s very hard to go against their wishes,” Commissioner Keith Mashburn said. “Your nightclub operation, from what I’ve seen, is not compatible with a residential area.”

No doubt, nobody wants to tell pissed off residents that they need to stand by and wait for the owners of this nightclub to make a good faith effort to resolve the issues.  Who would want to?  They’re pissed off!  But this place earns money for the city AND (and read this, because this is the most important part) the owner’s genuinely WANT to resolve the issues completely and be good neighbors!  Not sure you believe me?  Read on…

The Gerson family continues to earn a decent living on various business ventures, including similar nightclubs and other entertainment/event venues such as Calamigos Ranch in Malibu.  Frankly, closing shop in Simi Valley won’t destroy their bottom line.  They’re here because they like it here and they want to be here.

I’ll bet if you asked them for a tour of the facility and a demonstration of efforts to reduce noise, they’d show you every renovation and the invoices that reflect the cost.  I once watched them get a harsh scolding by our Mayor in a City Council meeting and then eavesdropped on their conversation with a disgruntled neighbor resulting in their unconditional agreement to pay cash for damages related to hit and run vandalism.  Mind you, this was done with no proof or evidence that the vandal was a patron of the club, this was just an assumption.  Further, I rudely listened in while the father and son owners discussed in the City Hall parking lot what they could do to power-up their efforts and make good with the residents.  In my mind, these guys are 100% genuine in their efforts to do good business that works for this city.

Nevertheless, Commissioner Tim Shannon said he believed Glen Gerson, developer and operator of The Vineyards/Candlelight, when he said the current problems can be resolved.

“I believe you can get these issues rectified, if you’re motivated, in short order. And I don’t think there is any neighbor that, if you truly rectify the issues, will stand in your way,” Shannon said. “We need business in Simi Valley, but we don’t need any business at the expense of our residents and that’s the issue that I think needs to be resolved.”

I think everyone believes that last statement, including the owners of Candlelight.  I think if you take a proactive effort to find out what the Candlelight owners are doing to resolve this problem, you’ll fully believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  Take Chris Kim, for example, who is the former manager of the Dakota’s restaurant that previously operated at the exact same location:

“I think that Candlelight’s making the effort and it should be acknowledged that they are making the effort to meet the requirements of the city and the neighbors,” Kim said.

The most fascinating element of this story is knowing that based on current city guidelines, Candlelight is already operating within the required limits in regards to noise and amplified music.  The efforts they are taking right now go way above and beyond and are a blatant showing of the Gersons’ good faith efforts to fit in.  Really, all they need is time, a lot to ask of impatient, frustrated neighbors.

So with this issue once again facing City Council, the big question is will they do what’s right for Simi Valley business and the general fund?  Will they inform citizens of the effort being made and ecourage them to wait and see while promoting Shop Simi First, or will they answer the angst of pissed off neighbors and ensure their votes for the next election cycle?  This is politics, after all.

Read the Acorn article here…

Simi Valley Should Work With Candlelight

This, from Glen Gerson, owner of the Candlelight Night Club in Simi Valley, in the Simi Valley Acorn this past Friday:

“You all have the absolute right to the private enjoyment of your homes and we don’t have the right to affect that,” he said. “We are the ones who have stepped into your community and we have a responsibility to make it work.”

If you read the article in the Simi Valley Acorn, clearly you’ll see that some problems exist in the area surrounding the nightclub and it’s probably a pretty safe assumption that its behavior brought about by patrons of the club.  I was at the City Council meeting months ago when Mr. Gerson appeared there to address concerns related to a hit and run accident with a parked car in the neighborhood.  While it wasn’t confirmed the accident was caused by a patron of his business, Gerson showed up to express his concern and cooperation.  The reception by some of the members of City Council, including the Mayor, was cold.  Despite there being no legal responsibility on his part, Gerson paid the victim of the property damage outright.

I spoke to Mr. Gerson after the meeting and found him sincere.  He is a business man with a desire to expand his business by being a good neighbor.  He’s no stranger to the nightclub scene, operating similar venues in other cities.  He seems to genuinely appreciate and understand the importance of making a business like his “work” in a community like ours, and acknowledges that with some time, effort and expense, it can be done.

Glen Gerson went before the Council for approval on a project to expand the nightclub to include a 1750 square foot add-on for food preparation.  Surrounding residents showed up to oppose the expansion project.  Part of the construction effort includes additional sound insulation of the exterior walls and an expansion on the number of parking spaces in the lot.

A noise study was prepared for the project and Gerson has agreed to implement recommended mitigation measures to keep noise within acceptable levels, said Lauren Funaiole, an environmental planner for the city.

“They’re going to do a lot of improvements inside to the ceiling and the walls to insulate the building better,” she said.

Funaiole said the study—which measured noise levels with and without music— showed that Candlelight is technically in compliance with the city standard. However, the increase in noise level when music is playing is so significant that the city is requiring the restaurant to take further steps to shield residents, she said.

Interestingly, Gerson indicates a lack of desire in continuing to operate if he can’t operate within acceptable levels.

Gerson said he’s committed to resolving residents’ issues.

“I believe we can mitigate all this because we’ve done it before” at other properties, he said. “We either prove that we can do it or we shouldn’t have the right to operate or continue.”

I did not attend this council meeting, so I don’t know if the reception was as cold then as it was before.  Based on what I’ve read in the newspaper, it probably wasn’t the most comfortable meeting for Mr. Gerson to attend.  I hope that despite the obvious dissatisfaction of the residents that the City of Simi Valley and City Council agree to work with Glen Gerson.  With the questionable economy, a business like this brings badly needed dollars into our city, as well as badly needed jobs.

Considering the open, honest effort Glen Gerson is making to go above and beyond city requirements, I would hope the City can be open minded and patient so we can keep a thriving business going in Simi Valley.

Candlelight Nightclub and Campaign Reform

An email from Brad Jashinsky, former candidate for Simi Valley School Board, to Brian Dennert sparked my interest in this story. According to Brad, Candlelight Nightclub in Simi Valley is the source of drunk drivers that have a bad habit of destroying property in nearby neighborhoods. This is the partial story according to Brad:

At 2am on Saturday November 29th I heard a loud explosive noise, and ran outside to see what had happened. I came out to see my sister’s car in the condition above with the obvious drunk driver getting away up the street.

Brad emailed me and told me he planned to be at the City Council meeting tonight to speak about the issue. I strapped on my video camera and made my way to council chambers to record the issue. More to come on this issue… That video is being edited as we speak!

Campaign Reform was another topic touched on this evening. Here’s a brief video of Steve Sojka who brought up the subject. Apparently, the Council will cover the topic of campaign reform and address the recent issues about campaign financing over the course of multiple sessions. Meanwhile, please watch the video and share your thoughts.