Open Ventura for Business
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My Name is Rachel Woodward and I am a local business owner here in Ventura. I purchased the communities long time iconic Restaurant/Sushi Bar, Seaward Sushi, located at 34 & 38 South Seaward Ave. I purchased the eatery December of 2015. It would take me three years to get through The City of Ventura’s permit process, Re- Opening my doors December of 2018. The business came with a type 41 ABC license which I obtained through The State of California’s ABC during escrow of the purchase. Seaward Sushi was founded in 1979 making it not only the oldest Sushi Bar but the very first Sushi Bar of Ventura. It has held the same type 41 ABC license for 40 years located in the same building under the same Business. Other than exchanging of hands of business owners the license has remained the exact same in good standing with the city and state. I have held this license for the past three and half years in good standing and renew it yearly through the local ABC office here in Ventura located on Hill Dr.
The establishment upon purchase was a turnkey operation, though hours were irregular due to past owner’s management issues. As a new business owner of the establishment, the city considered me a new business even though the legal name, DBA, menu, address, and licenses were the same as they have been for 40 years.
Like so many of you out there, I was now caught in the overly cumbersome permitting process that our city has continued to enforce upon its community members over the years. Upon having to close my doors, I was then asked to submit full blueprints and plans forcing me to begin the permitting process of bringing the full building and property as well as the business up to code.
The property itself had not been brought up to code since 1985 and because our city process does not require, ask, or expect the actual property owner to do their part in bringing their building, parking lot, property and or structures up to code upon renting commercial property, the burden of cost is then placed and forced upon the tenant. I have endured the burden of cost for everything including structural on the building inside and out, along with a parking lot I also do not own that is shared by five other businesses on my block.
My rent has been raised three times already over the past years and upon Re-Opening my doors I have found myself on my last year of my lease. With no allowances, exceptions, grandfathering in of any kind or simple guidance or sense of feeling that anyone is or has my best interest in helping me get through the permitting process, I have found myself speaking out and asking for change.
On June 14th of 2019 I found myself closing my doors once again with no means to re-open. Though it took me three years to get my permits signed off on and my doors finally re-opened, I was not yet allowed to serve alcohol in my establishment. The city of Ventura required me to apply for a city use permit to be allowed to use my State type 41 ABC license within their city limits. As this permit is generally applied for before acquiring an ABC license by the state in the city of Ventura, I was informed this process would only be a formality and should not take that long. The first week of June I was informed the city would take eight months to process my application putting me on calendar for a hearing to discuss whether I should be granted this “Use Permit” for my business, August 6th, 2019. When I explained to the city that after six months of enduring overhead costs of keeping my doors open I would not survive financially until August with no alcohol sales, I was informed they were “right on schedule with their application process” and I would have to figure something out and be patient.
Small Business’s are the heart and soul of small towns and cities such as Ventura. They play vital roles in our economic growth, keeping money and taxes within our community, providing jobs locally, bringing innovation and strength within our city limits. They represent the very life source that keeps this city alive and thriving.
When you have a system in place that only benefits those at the very top and in power by bleeding the ones at the bottom carrying the burden through taxes and permits that eventually crumble , you are killing the very life source that this city relies on for survival.
We the community are many and our voices no longer desire to fall on deaf ears not wanting to listen. We are looking to our leaders and the powers that be in this city and asking for change. Change in policy, change in the way that business is being conducted and how peoples lives are being catastrophically destroyed by unnecessary due process that has displaced families and destroyed lives of so many that simply were trying to better their lives for their themselves, their families and their community.
Projects should be dealt with on a case by case with exceptions allowed in city planning. The departments and desks should be business friendly and informative to those trying to understand and navigate their way through the process. Small business’s should be helped in an efficient manner to provide a working relationship moving the process in a timely manner to achieve business owners to get their doors open and to be successful, working along side other departments, property owners and tenants wishing to apply through the city’s permitting process. Departments need to be restructured in a manner that is more efficient with less meetings discussing change but implementing change within its departments. Landlords of commercial property should be held accountable by the city planning and building and safety for structural upgrades brought up to code while tenants/business owners are doing their part required to move in, set up, install or remodel their business within the building up to codes and standards that follow city guidelines. In Short, the city planning department should be helping business owners while working alongside other departments and commercial property owners with the focus on getting permits signed off on and business’s open and running in a fast and efficient manner.
I am asking the community to have their voices heard and sign this petition being sent to our City Council members and our City Mayor, Matt Lavere demanding Change in their policies in City Planning and permitting process.
OPEN VENTURA FOR BUSINESS
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