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The new Little Sparrow cafe wants to be a bar, but needs a permit

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Naseem Aflakian and Bruce Marsh of Santa Ana’s exclusive Floral Park neighborhood are looking to open an American Bistro called the “Little Sparrow,” that will “serve great bakery items for breakfast, crafted sandwiches for lunch, and candlelight dinners along with cocktails,” according to the Eat In OC Blog.

Aflakian and Marsh have raised over $25,000 for this venture via something called Kickstart, which appears to be an online funding mechanism.  You can click here to see who has invested in their restaurant.

These folks have been pressuring the Santa Ana Planning Commission to give them a full liquor license – a highly unusual request from a start-up restaurant.  Typically they are lucky to get a beer and wine license.

But last night Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido asked the City Council to review the request made by the owners of the Little Sparrow.  The effort failed and was remanded back to the Planning Commission.  I can’t fault Pulido for trying to help a new venture, but in the past the City of Santa Ana has bent over backwards for non-Latino restaurant owners, while stiffing Latinos.  The Planning Commission is having none of that this time around.

According to an online interview, the plans for Little Sparrow are focused on it being a bar as well as a restaurant:

“The general idea is that we open early (7:00 ish) for coffee, baked goods, and possibly an egg dish or two.  Around 11:00am we transition into a variety hand-crafted sandwiches for lunch.  We’ll close the doors for an hour or so in the afternoon and reopen at 5:00 or so for a romantic fine/casual dinner.  The bar, which is separated from the dining room by a long hallway, will open about the same time as dinner and will have its own atmosphere.  Whereas the dining room is a light and open candle-lit room, the bar will be a bit sexier and darker featuring expertly mixed craft cocktails.”

The cocktails may have to wait!  These folks need to prove themselves worthy of a full liquor license and their shaky funding should be a red flag to the Santa Ana Planning Agency, except that apparently the city’s planners never looked at the Little Sparrow’s proposed funding mechanism.

Aflakian does have a Masters in Food Studies from NYU and Marsh has apparently been involved in “several successful start-ups,” but I cannot tell from the info that is available online if they have ever worked at or owned a restaurant or bar previously.  You can click here to check out the Little Sparrow’s Facebook page.

I am not sure where Marsh and Aflakian, who are married, came up with the name “Little Sparrow,” but perhaps they were inspired by an outlawed French delicacy, involving an endangered relative of the Sparrow called an “Ortolan.”  These little sparrows are caught in nets, then put in black boxes full of a grain called millet.

Once it has been fattened on millet, the captured ortolan is drowned in armagnac, plucked, and stripped of its feet and a few other tiny parts.  After roasting in a ramekin for eight minutes, it is brought to the table while its pale yellow fat still sizzles, for the diner to take whole into his mouth.  Those who dine on Ortolans have to don a towel over their heads as the experience  is “quite monstrous” to watch, according to the Telegraph.  You can see what this is like in the video below:


 
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14 Comments  comments 

14 Responses

  1. notbrowninsa

    I cannot wait to try this restaurant! Bend over backwards for non-Latino restaurant owner’s? Stiff Latino owned restaurants? Ha! Living in the past much? Little Sparrow should create a special cocktail, after that liquor license shows up in your mailbox of course, for those who don’t care to toast to your future in Santa Ana. A happy hour drink after a hard day at the office. How about, ‘Don’t hate us because we are open’! HA!

    • I don’t wish them I’ll but they don’t deserve a full liquor license right away. I let’s hope they run a clean operation.

      • cook

        Interesting comment, what is the reason to withhold a license from them?

        • No one is saying they should not get a license only that they should not get a full license. That is generally the case with new restaurants particularly when the owners have no history of running successful restaurants.

          There are Mexican restaurants in town that still have only a beer and wine license after many years in business. Why should Little Sparrow get treated better from the onset?

          • AskThisMexican

            I am a Mexican who grew up in Santa Ana and still live here – 47 years and counting. In this situation, we should NOT penalize people who are willing to invest in downtown Santa Ana. If one believes that the money they were able to secure through Kickstarter is all the funding required to build out a space of it’s size, you clearly do not understand the effort and funding it requires to start a business like the Little Sparrow. Moreover, it is not “highly unusual” for a start-up restaurant of this type to request similar licensing. Because you say it’s so does not make it so.

            As far as the name is concerned, why would one speculate about it in the most negative terms? Does this not say more about the individual who authored it than the people trying to start up a business?

            To clear up a little something for all who may be interested. The city doesn’t issue liquor licenses – the ABC does. The city issues Conditional Use Permits or CUP licenses. Typically to be issued a CUP that would allow for on-site sales of liquor a detailed business plan including funding are submitted to the city planner and can as in this case be escalated to the city council and/or mayor. All that said, it appears to me that for some reason they didn’t meet some requirement (perhaps cash reserves?) to secure the CUP. All in all it looks like the process worked as intended.

            How does this all relate to the issue of a perceived “stiffing” of” Latinos”? What is the make-up of the city council and mayor? My guess is there is more to the picture than meets the eye and there very well could be legitimate reasons why other business owners were denied a CUP that would allow for on-site sales of liquor. If you have evidence to the contrary I would suggest you spend your time assisting these business owners and not applauding another’s denial seemingly based on race.

          • I agree that they should not be penalized however the truth of the matter is they should not be treated differently just because they aren’t Latino – and the fact is that Latino owned businesses have been handled differently by our Planning Agency for years.

            I do understand how much money it takes to open a restaurant, which is why I question if this Kickstarter money is enough. Who else is behind this operation? We deserve to know and give the poor health and safety record of virtually every restaurant in our Downtown, we need to carefully scrutinize these people and make sure they aren’t more cochinos.

            As far as the name is concerned, clearly you lack a sense of humor.

            You are right about the CUP’s. Thanks for explaining that. And yes there is definitely a problem here. They want a CUP to allow for on-site sale of all liquor and that simply doesn’t happen with new restaurants, for the most part.

            Never mind the make-up of the Council. The issue here is the Planning Agency and in many ways they continue to operate as they did under former City Manager Dave Ream. It is time to end the double standards and treat everyone the same way, irrespective of race.

          • AskThisMexican

            Writers use humor to make a larger point or influence the reader is some way. Your attempt at humor was not lost on me. It is just that the attempt was in poor taste and revealed something about you.

            Again, I’ve lived in Santa Ana a very long time and have witnessed REAL double standards based on race. This in no way appears to be the case and shouldn’t be framed in a way that suggests it. By doing so you do a disservice to the very people to appear to be championing.

          • What it revealed is that I know a thing or too about gourmet food. Call it poor taste if you will but in France the Ortolan dish, although now illegal, was such a big deal that former President Mitterrand requested it for his last meal, even as he was dying of cancer. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5223077.

            I don’t care how long you have been here. There is a double standard and it has been attested to by no less a downtown figure than Dr. Art Lomeli. And he has been in business in the Downtown for as long as you have lived here.

  2. Connie

    This looks like a cool restaurant. I wish them success in their venture. Bon Appétit!

  3. mateo

    Do they own that bar next door? is that part of the new restaurant? or owned by the same property owner?

  4. mateo

    I have always thought of that location as the HQ of the Demilitarized Zone. I wish them luck. I hope that they have some menu drink options that are not rocket high $$$. The Mexican immigrants aren’t the only ones with out mucho dinero these days.

  5. Karyn Bergmann

    Wow! What a huge logical leap to infer from a sweet name like “Little Sparrow” that their inspiration was a monstrous practice of eating small birds! How do you know that the name of this very cool restaurant isn’t derived from the owner’s ethnic name? How do you know that the owner doesn’t have any connections to the Latino community? Editor, I think you are showing a little bias and cultural insensitivity yourself.

    • Any gourmand worth his salt would understand that reference. At any rate it was conjecture on our part and purely tongue in cheek.

      Let’s see how they pan out. We’ll be watching closely for any health violations.

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