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SCV Neighborhood Declares War on Drifters Bar
A look at whether Los Angeles County should cancel Drifters' ABC license.
Drifters Cocktails relocated from Canyon Country to the old Mulligan's Pub building in the Vista Village Center near Cal Arts last summer. The owner Dennis Marazzito aimed to rebrand the establishment from a rowdy music dive bar to a family-friendly restaurant by calling it a bar and grill, then changed it again to Bar and Pizzeria. They also expanded their Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) license to include food and catering.
The community surrounding Vista Village Center was thrilled at the news of another community restaurant within walking distance. Nealie's Skillet has been in Vista Village since 2016 and is a beloved breakfast and lunch spot highly regarded in the community. Nealie's owners are amazing people and very embedded in the community. Unfortunately, Nealie's generally closes at 1:30, so it was welcomed news that a potential dinner spot was opening up.
When the "new" Drifters opened in July 2022, they started well, attracting families, High School groups like Hart Band and Football, they even got some excellent reviews on their food, but unfortunately, the Drifters rebrand didn't stick. Instead, the elements that gave Drifters a lousy reputation at their Canyon Country location followed them to Vista Village. Drifters' problem is wanting to be all things to all people. A place can't simultaneously be a music dive bar and a family-friendly restaurant.
So after 11 months of moving into Vista Village, Drifters have officially worn out their welcome with the neighborhood. The residents living in the area adjacent to Vista Village's parking lot oppose Drifter's efforts to upgrade their business license to an entertainment license. In response to the many neighbor complaints Drifters put out a social media post advertising a Change.org, which has gotten almost 950+ signers it is however unclear what this was supposed to prove. It is easy to sign a petition, when you are not the one being kept up all hours of the night. Drifters owner Dennis Marazzito had a scheduled hearing with the Business License Commission on May 31; as of publishing, County has not posted the minutes from that hearing, so we don’t have a clear picture of what transpired.
It is yet to be determined if this was in response to a 2022 law that allowed restaurants to become music venues or if this is an attempt to pivot into an ABC license that will still allow them to have minors and not have the food requirements, drifters currently license required that their alcohol sales do not exceed their food sales in the same quarter. They are almost certainly not hitting these numbers, there have been quite a few complaints of people being ignored in the restaurant area. The entertainment licenses doesn’t make sense for drifters or the community according to the law 2022 law they would only be allowed to serve alcohol 2 hours prior to the start of entertainment and 1 hour after.
The community around Drifters is pissed because of the bait and switch; they thought they were getting a walkable family restaurant, Vista Village Parking lot is the start of a main paseo trail that goes all the way to the mall. Instead, they gained a nuisance that has all but abandoned the restaurant aspect and only brought annoyance and potential danger literally to their backyards; it is NIMBY on crack. Just read some of the complaints.
The complaints from the neighbors are consistent, complaining about loud music shaking their windows, which is a clear violation of Drifters ABC license that states "the use of any such system or device inside the premises shall not be audible outside the premises." In addition, neighbors complain about people continuing to loiter in the parking lot long after Drifters closes, which is another clear violation of their ABC License which states "Petitioner(s) shall actively monitor the area under their control in an effort to prevent the loitering of persons on any property adjacent to the licensed premises."
Drifters has broken most of the rules outlined in its ABC License, causing frustration among its neighbors, who expected better when the establishment joined the neighborhood, they have no one else to blame but themselves. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that Drifters will clean up their act and comply with its operating restrictions to ensure safety and protect the rights of those living nearby. The neighborhood may need to consider filing complaints with the ABC as their next course of action if Drifters doesn’t get the message.
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