The West Hollywood City Council voted unanimously to reject a request by Alfredo Diaz, co-owner of Revolver, that it overrule the Planning Commission’s approval of Cooley’s, a bar and restaurant proposed for the south side of Santa Monica Boulevard east of Robertson.
The Council also rejected a Planning Commission provision that would have reduced the size of Cooley’s rear patio by half. But it did ask the city’s Community Development Department to work with Cooley’s to reduce the area devoted to the bar.
While Cooley’s got unanimous support from the Council, some members voiced concerns. Councilmember John Heilman, for example, said he wanted to ensure that it didn’t morph into a nightclub. He said he was concerned that the kitchen was relatively small for a restaurant and that the bar area was relatively large. Councilmember John D’Amico raised concerns about whether the alley behind the park would provide adequate access for a firetruck or other emergency vehicles. He also suggested that there be access from the alley to the park to better integrate the two. Councilmember Duran voiced overall support for Cooley’s. He noted that some had raised concerns that nightclubs and restaurants had a negative effect on the area’s retail economy. But, Duran said, the decline in retail on that area of Santa Monica Boulevard was part of an inevitable evolution of the area.
While Diaz spoke against Cooley’s, his business partner and the co-owner of Revolver, Chris Miller, spoke in favor of the project. Diaz cited Miller’s support as evidence that his objection to Cooley’s wasn’t out of concern about its impact on Revolver, a gay bar at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Larrabee. Instead, he said, he was concerned about the impact of Cooley’s on the overall business community in the area on the west end of Santa Monica Boulevard known as Boystown. Diaz said he was also concerned about the impact of Cooley’s on users of West Hollywood Park, which lies immediately south of the Cooley’s location.
Diaz raised several objections to Cooley’s. He said one of his biggest concerns is that while Cooley’s is billed as primarily a restaurant, he believes it also will become a nightclub. “Do we truly believe that Cooleys is a restaurant?” he asked. “… There is no doubt, at least in my mind, that Cooley’s will be operated as a restaurant, a bar and a nightclub.”
Mark Lehman, a lawyer representing David Cooley, owner of Cooley’s and the founder of The Abbey, said that the so-called “gastropub” will be distinctive and not a direct competitor with any other area business. Lehman did ask the Council to reverse a Planning Commission decision to reduce the proposed size of the rear patio of Cooley’s, which he said would have a negative impact on the business.
Objections to the Cooley’s plan came largely from those who opposed the idea of having a restaurant and bar fronting on the park, claiming that it will create noise and expose park users, particularly young children, to people drinking. The city’s Community Development Department however noted that the park’s basketball courts effectively shield the Cooley’s patio from the view of those using the park. There also is an alley between Cooley’s and the park.
Diaz’ appeal to the Council was his third effort to block Cooley’s. Earlier he unsuccessfully asked the city’s assistant community development director to reject the Cooley’s proposal. Diaz then filed an appeal of that decision with the Planning Commission, which rejected his appeal.
Cooley’s, which will occupy three commercial spaces with a total of 5,632 square feet and includes front and rear patios , is part of a significant redevelopment of the south side of Santa Monica Boulevard just east of Robertson. On the corner, Lisa Vanderpump and her husband, Ken Todd, are developing a gay lounge called P.U.M.P. on the lot once occupied by Java Detour, a coffee bar.
In his appeal to the City Council, Diaz also argued that approval of Cooley’s be delayed until the master plan for and the construction of the adjacent West Hollywood Park is completed to ensure Cooley’s will be an appropriate complement to the park. He asked that it be allowed to operate only from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. And he requested that liquor sales be limited to 35 percent of gross receipts.
Council members, however, noted that the park’s master plan anticipated that businesses front on it and that the area already is a nightlife district where bars and restaurants typically are open until as late as 2 a.m.
UP NEXT: See other illustrations of the proposed Cooley’s design, presented to the Council by Kelly Architects, the design firm in charge of the project, on the following pages: