Monday, September 29, 2008

The Icy Scythe of Bureaucracy

Restaurants fail for lots of reasons. Location. Concept. Overhead. Arrogance. Incompetence. General crappiness. Or just good old fashioned shitty luck.

Or some restaurants could just fail from good old fashioned retarded hubris.

Last week saw the collapse of two restaurants due to run-ins with our friends at the ABC.

For those of you unfamiliar, the Alcoholic Beverage Control issues and regulates liquor licenses in the state of California. When opening a restaurant in California, your best hope is to buy an establishment with an already existing liquor license. Woe be to the restaurant that seeks to start from scratch in an un-licensed space.

For you see, the ABC is a massive self-perpetuating bureaucracy that needs all the hoops it puts in place to survive. The more hoops, the more opportunities for fines and processing fees. And all because we're a nation founded by Puritans, went through a dozen or so years sans-hooch in the 1920's, and then nobody stopped and said, "Hey wait a minute, this is irrelevant and pointless now."

So what brought down Vinoteque and Goa? Underage drinking? Unchecked sex? Nope. Simple flagrant violations of simple rules.

Vinoteque had use restrictions on their license, including limitations on how late they could serve alcohol outside and how late they could have live music. They violated these restrictions. They were warned. They again violated them. So they lost their license.

I'm not sure what the owners expected. The ABC isn't in business to make it easy to have a liquor license, but I suppose anyone who decorates a space in the style of 1993 must be okay playing fast and loose with the regulatory body that secures their livelihood.

In Goa's case, they were operating under a type "47" liquor license. A 47 is a license for eating establishments that serve alcohol. Which means restaurants and pubs, not trendy nightclubs open to all hours with celebutantes and swarthy douchebags vomiting on each other on Wednesday nights. Apparently Goa never did get their food program in order. Another restriction on 47 licenses has to do with dancing. An eating establishment with live music (a "cabaret") needs to have a clearly delineated dance floor. This might sound like an irrelevant nuance, except that it's put in place so that restaurants can't use the more easily-obtained 47 license to backdoor themselves into becoming a nightclub.

When there is so much at stake financially, why the hell wouldn't you obey the rules? I'm all for anti-authoritarianism but I'm also all for profit and flaunting your lack of conformity at the risk of your livelihood seems ridiculously silly. What point are you trying to make besides "fuck you ABC?"

It could very well be that these establishments were doomed to fail anyway. There was always something off about Vinoteque and nightclubs in Hollywood have a history of disappearing after a year or two, but why hasten the demise by being an arrogant prick?

Play by the rules, get people liquored up, and close when you're supposed to. And then make money. If you want business without regulation, go to Somalia.

Or open an investment bank on Wall Street.

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