Vanishing Hermosa liquor license — the strange case of Blue 32

The Hermosa Avenue restaurant Blue 32 was pouring drinks for four months without a liquor license. Co-owner Dave Lowe told the city Planning Commission that he didn’t do it on purpose – the license had been sold without his knowledge.

The situation so mystified Lowe and the commission that commissioners gave him a month to get to the bottom of it and report back to them. Meanwhile the eatery remains dry, and its doors are closed.

In a memo to city officials, Police Chief Greg Savelli said on April 7 Brandie Richards, an agent of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control, informed him that Blue 32’s license had been sold to an establishment outside the city.

The next day Richards found Blue 32 “selling and serving alcohol without a license” and issued a citation to Lowe, Savelli wrote. Richards reported that the license had gone into receivership and had been sold by the receiver on Dec. 13.

Lowe, hauled before the Planning Commission for a potential revocation of his conditional use permit to operate the restaurant, said he had not been informed of the receivership sale.

“That was complete news to us,” he said.

Lowe said he is scrambling to pay creditors, but has not filed for bankruptcy or used the liquor license as collateral for a loan, which, he said, would not be allowed by law.

Commissioners scratched their heads, Lowe scratched his, and he said the ABC’s Richards was also trying to find out more about the receivership. Lowe also said a creditor has a lien on some Blue 32 assets, but did not know whether that would explain the liquor license sale.

Savelli noted a tight timeline within which Lowe was apparently trying to pay for a renewal of his license, and the receiver was apparently trying to sell it. Addressing Lowe, Savelli said it could be that “your check was going one way, and the receiver was selling it the other way.”

Savelli told the commissioners he did not know whether Lowe had received word that his liquor license had been sold.

“Whether he knew, we’ll have to take him at his word,” Savelli said.

“Even if he was notified, let’s just give him the time to figure this out,” said commission chair Kent Allen.

Lowe said he voluntarily closed Blue 32 after Richards closed down the bar. He told commissioners that there was no point trying to operate an eatery with prime steaks prepared by accomplished chefs without drinks.

“We’re not talking about a taco stand here,” he said.

Lowe said he’s in the process of buying another liquor license, which would not clear escrow before 90 to 180 days.

“No matter what you do tonight, this could put me out of business,” Lowe said.

In a letter to the commission, he wrote that Blue 32 has lost more than $1 million a year since 2008, when the city imposed restrictions, including earlier closing times, for alleged violations of his conditional use permit.

He told the council that the restaurant has gone 40 straight months without any problems recorded by the Police Department or Fire Department, which looks for overcrowding violations.

“I have an employee getting married in May, I have employees with kids on the way,” Lowe said, adding to that list his creditors and a six-year property lease he must pay off.

“I’m sacred to death that this is it for me,” he said. ER

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