Wed. Mar 29th, 2023

The new Little Sparrow Cafe asked their supporters to show up at tonight’s Santa Ana Planning Commission meeting and they did, about fifteen of them.  One after another they got up to talk about how nothing was happening in Downtown Santa Ana until they showed up.  Then Planning Commissioners Sean Mill and Eric Alderete set them straight – there are businesses today in the Downtown area that have been there for decades.

Mill went on to remind folks that these businesses, owned primarily by Latinos, were ripped off by the PBID – and that money was used to prop up all the newcomers.  The Little Sparrow fans immediately erupted in hoots and hollers until Alderete had to shut them up.

But the Little Sparrow sort of got what they wanted.  They got their 47C liquor license but Mill and Alderete also got what they wanted.  The Little Sparrow will not be allowed to stay open after midnight.  Their patrons will have to get their drunk on elsewhere at the witching hour.

There are 72 liquor licenses in the district that the Little Sparrow sits in – a district that is among the most crime-ridden in the entire city.  But the Little Sparrow’s owners got what they wanted.

Still, it was not a total victory for the Little Sparrow and I will be watching the Orange County Health Agency’s website very carefully to see if these folks end up with any health violations.

I don’t wish these folks ill, but did we really need another full bar in the Downtown area?  And why did they get a full liquor license when The Crosby and The Playground, not to mention the Copper Door, didn’t?

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

27 thoughts on “The Little Sparrow Cafe gets their liquor license but can’t open past 12 am”
  1. It sounds as if they want to give “The Little Sparrow Cafe” the opportunity to prove themselves before giving them after-midnight access. Not a bad idea. Not sure why they snubbed The Crosby, The Playground and the Copper Door. Ask the Planning Commissioners. They should know.

    1. It was not a snub actually. None of those entities had proven records as restaurant and bar owners.

      The real question is why did the Little Sparrow cut in line? Why did the other Planning Commissioners roll over?

  2. Why is it that Mexican Businesses can’t get liquor or late hours but Gringo businesses can? What up wit dat? Good Job Planning Commission for being fair to all businesses!

  3. Sometimes I have an epiphany where I see the truth….the truth is…you guys are racist bigots and idiots. The Playground DID get a liquor license, the Copper Door serves no food so could not get a type 47 license, and the Crosby has not applied for a type 47. Las Brisas had no record as a business, but they got beer and wine, Mil Jugos had no record but got beer and wine, Tacos y Mariscos got a liquor license no questions asked. Pho Vuong, Original Mikes, Chapter One: the modern local, Izalco….

    What I put more into question is why can a latino or favored business get a license no problem, but a new business cannot, even if they have superior education in running a restaurant? I get you guys don’t like the new businesses moving in that have white owners (racist), but why make the entire city suffer because of your prejudice? Fine! Let the new restaurants and cool new places that can bring tax revenue and people to downtown go to Orange or Garbage Grove (the other pc members’ arguments). Your arguments make no sense because having a “record” has NEVER been applied before other than where there was a BAD record (like Tacos Zamora and Proof), and the Little Sparrow people should sue the hell out of the city for the racist Planning Commission.

    The City cannot simply deny a qualified applicant or application because they want to and those that do not like “gentrification” cannot simply count out a race, gender, or sexual preference simply because they feel like it. It is unconstitutional and against the market, and against the principles of the US. In looking out for one race, you are bigoted against others. THAT, I find reprehensible and embarrassing. You, who write for this blog, are bigoted and disgusting, and Alderete has just lost a tremendous amount of votes. He will now lose because of this farce – guarantee it.

    Your posting negative comments, negative photos, etc. about Little Sparrow Cafe just exposes your bias and ignorance. No wonder you all have become the marginals with no power to persuade.


    Embarrassed in SA

    1. The owners of the Little Sparrow have never previously owned any restaurants.

      And you have previously said you don’t live in Santa Ana. Did you move here recently?

    2. Well said ocgrrl. And by the way, I have lived in Santa Ana over 40 years and I couldn’t agree more. You touched on most of the silly arguments that amount to little more than race-based bias. One cannot combat racism by employing racist tactics. I am personally happy when someone is willing to invest the amount of money required in bringing a business such as the Little Sparrow to the downtown area and the employment, tax revenue, etc. that comes along with it.

        1. Again, silly. You have no evidence to reach that conclusion. The business as I understand it is more of a bistro than a bar. To characterize it as you have is once again silly and shameful.

        2. Again, silly. Many businesses that have cafe in the name are more of a bistro. Is every business that has cafe in the name supposed to have a similar business plan as Mimi’s? Try to present substantive argument. To date you’ve brought nothing but silly, race-based nonsense. So far you come across as a petulant child.

          1. Then you’ll be pleased to know that this story has caught the attention of investigative reporter Helen Afrasiabi. She is now working on a report about the proliferation of liquor licenses in Santa Ana.

        3. Why would I care either way? As long as the story is fact based I think it will probably be a very good thing. Hopefully the story will be fact based and the residents of Santa Ana can get beyond the silly fallacies that you have presented thus far.

  4. 1. White owned businesses getting treatment equal to that of Latino owned businesses = RACIST

    2. Not doing everything angry white mob demands = RACIST

    3. Santa Ana Planning Commission = RACIST

    Please remember to repeat the talking points often.

    Remember if you repeat a lie enough times it becomes the truth.

  5. In 2011 OC Weekly named Chapter One Best New Restaurant. Santa Ana scored another victory this year when the award went to The Playground. I wouldn’t be surprised if Little Sparrow snags 2013 honors. That’s because Downtown Santa Ana is becoming a haven for foodies with some of the most distinctive chef driven destination restaurants in the county. This is good news.

    A destination restaurant hires people. (The Playground has 35 employees, 11 of whom are residents of Santa Ana; the Little Sparrow projects roughly the same.) Destination restaurants bring people to our city and these people spend their money here in both restaurants and shops. These restaurants pay taxes and their customers pay the city for parking. This benefits all citizens. Our streets are alive and active at night, so our shops stay open later, creating more revenues, taxes and employment opportunities.

    But no destination restaurant can survive if it is denied the right to serve alcohol. It is a fact that most diners want to have the option to order a drink. And most diners will pick another restaurant if they cannot. I think the Planning Commissioners – who I believe are all well intended and conscientious – are misguided to think that track record is an important factor in awarding conditional use permits allowing these restaurants to apply for an ABC license. It should be enough that the operators are willing to come to the city, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to build out a new restaurant, to employ local contractors, to hire dozens of employees and to add critical revenue to our city’s tax base. If the Planning Commission requires a track record, then new edgy restaurants will go to Anaheim or Costa Mesa, who welcome them. Santa Ana would lose in many ways.

    Although Chapter One, The Playground and Little Sparrow (and perhaps others) are operated by people who are now, or soon will be, residents of Santa Ana, I understand that it appears that all of the new restaurants are operated by people who are not Latinos and that the flavor of downtown is changing. (The next great downtown restaurant is likely to be El Mercado in the East End, which will be operated by a Latino, if I understand correctly.) But, by definition, this is a racist observation. I would suggest that the race of the business operator is not important. It is what they bring to the city that we should focus on. We need good paying jobs, parking and tax revenue, and foot traffic to support our retail businesses. It shouldn’t matter the color of the skin or the native language of the business operator.

    If you are concerned about what the future of our Latino merchants, please patronize their establishments. Buy your bread from Moya’s Bakery; buy your clothing at Style World and the many shops that line Fourth Street; eat lunch at Moya’s, Mil Jugos or either of the taquerias in the East End, etc. Show how much these businesses mean to you by spending your money there. If they go out of business it will not be because white people shoved them out, it will be because they cannot attract enough business to survive.

    Santa Ana is livelier than ever. The nights are filled with lights and the energy of people enjoying the only genuine downtown experience in Orange County. This is good and something we can build on. Let’s make Santa Ana a city that welcomes everyone and embraces its multi-ethnic culture. Supporting new, exciting businesses as well as our existing business is the way to make that happen.

    1. Congratulations on your award. But know that many of us are concerned about factors including: the lack of family restaurants, the proliferation of liquor licenses, the drunken louts driving in our city after they leave these establishments, the awful record of health violations at most of not all of these restaurants, the high prices at most of these restaurants and the fact that you are all seemingly very happy to rip off your Latino neighbors via the unethical PBID.

      That the lot of you want special handling at Planning is also obnoxious. Go ahead and take your foodies elsewhere. I rather see chain family restaurants in our downtown. They would create jobs and pay taxes too.

      1. Thank you, and I appreciate the spirit of your response.

        I think you’re right; it would be nice to have more family restaurants in the area. I don’t think there’s any conspiracy to keep them out and hopefully some of the restaurants that are currently here or that wish to come here will heed your call. And you’re right. If they come they will create jobs and pay taxes too.

        Please don’t necessarily associate us or other newcomers with the PBID or accuse us of being happy to rip off our neighbors. Although I did not ask for PBID, I am very pleased that the streets are clean and the area is well policed. If it hadn’t been, I am afraid we would have built our restaurant elsewhere. It’s not clear to me how that is prejudicial to anyone who makes his living selling goods or services within the PBID area.

        Also, I wasn’t aware that I expected or received special handling at Planning. I applied for a CUP last March and did not receive it until September. I paid more than $10,000 in fees and other costs. I respected the importance of the careful, but painfully slow, process. I lost an entire summer of sales on our patio, but did not complain.

        I understand that we may disagree on the value of bringing foodies to Santa Ana and the impact that would have and I love a good debate. I respect your view, but I would appreciate if you wouldn’t be so quick to attribute anything but sincere motivations to us. We respect our neighbors, purchase food and goods at their stores and restaurants and would never be “happy to rip off” our neighbors; nor do I think it’s fair to label us as “obnoxious.” We’re just honest and passionate restaurateurs trying to do our best to make great food, keep our doors open and to be good community members and employers.

        Feel free to come by sometime. I’d love to hear more about your views and share my own. I’ll buy you a beer and we can talk about it. I’m not always there, so contact me if you want to take me up on this offer.

        1. I appreciate your reasoned response. I can also assure you that your compatriots who were at the Planning Commission meeting the other night were most certainly obnoxious, talking out of turn, and hooting and hollering. They were clearly trying to bully our Planning Commission. That failed.

          The PBID has been ruinous for many downtown businesses. It cannot end soon enough.

          Our former city manager wasted money on overpaid consultants and stupid ideas like the islands on 17th. So he loved schemes like the PBID that put the onus for services the city should provide in the downtown on the merchants. That is why he concocted the PBID.

          I have no issue with foodies in fact I do all the cooking for my family. But I do think that we need to rethink the direction our downtown is taking. It is becoming exclusionary. There are two Santa Anas and the odds are stacked in favor of the gentrifiers. Why for example do those who patronize the Downtown businesses during the day have to pay for parking when it is free at night?

          I started this blog to give a voice to the families in town who are so often overlooked by the powers that be. No one else may be watching what is going on but we are.

          I’ll take you up on your offer some time soon. I look forward to discussing this further. In the interim can you explain why the gentrified restaurants all have such awful health records? Shouldn’t they know better? I know chefs are highly trained in hygiene and food safety. What the heck is going on?

          1. I think you’ve created an issue here where there is none. I am not aware of any poor health records among the restaurants downtown. I think you confuse written comments with actual problems. Downtown Santa Ana has an excellent and thorough health inspector who has occasionally pointed out that we had a plastic bag filled with kitchen towels on the floor, for example. That might occur if he inspects just after the Cintas guy brings us our weekly shipment of towels and no one has yet had a chance to put them away. The inspector writes this up as a minor violation as a painful reminder not to let it happen again. Speaking solely for us, there has never been a real issue of hygiene and we have passed every inspection. We are highly committed to health and safety and cut no corners. I would be surprised if the situation is any different at the other restaurants you might name.

            I think you have been very selective in doing your research. I went to the Health Department website and pulled up the list of all restaurants in the 92701 zip code. I picked several at random, including the ones I patronize. I did not find one that did not have a significant number of minor violations discovered during routine inspections. This is just part of the process of keeping restaurants compliant with health and safety matters. We do our best and the Health Department helps us do better by pointing out imperfections. It keeps us on our toes and makes us better. Believe me, no one wants comments from the Health Department. We all do our best to follow all of their guidelines.

      2. Just how is anyone being ripped off and how is anyone asking for preferential treatment? Your entire argument is race-based nonsense and you should, if you had the capacity, be embarrassed. Instead of promoting the type of establishments you claim to want to see more of, you attempt to figuratively tear down those that do not fit your narrow definition of what you believe is appropriate for the area. You are no better than Fox News in this regard. Nobody is being disenfranchised or ripped off.

          1. Lies? Take him up on the offer and debate the topic. Heck, I’ll kick in for a beverage of your choice if it would help.

  6. The PBID Was an unconstitutional attempt to create a private municipality within the Santa Ana municipality. It was about laundering the power between a handful of wealthy property owners (You know who they are!),and Cynthia Nelson of the Department of Community Redevelopment (Notorious for handouts to insider private interests) Manager Dave Ream (also)and his city property interests, and all protected by the SA Police Dept., McCoy and Gominsky. The controversial property “red lining” and “up-scaling” targeted marketing strategy had to be backed by a security apparatus to give it that extra sense of established authority, not to mention the other associates of the board such as Mike McGee (former Grand Central Dir.)as the “Academic Advisor”. Mike McGee claimed that he had no knowledge of the Santora owner having a Department of Commmunity Redevelopment contract with the Arts Community, even though the Grand Central was part of that same Artists Village redevelopment plan. Things that make you go HMMMMMM?

    1. So it is a conspiracy for the benefit of wealthy anglos to the detriment of the resident latino community? Your right… It does make me go HMMMMM…

  7. No conspiracy.
    Spend a little time doing research.
    I am not a white people’s restaurant hater, and I am not a “Raza” lover.
    I have no opinion about Vicky Baxter or Little Sparrows. I look forward to more variety.
    It’s about unchecked, un-transparent capitalism
    and the politicians that are bought to push it along.
    Did Parker Brothers create the game Monopoly for the sake of fulfilling conspiracy theories?
    I love Whitey!
    But if Whitey wants to act like the political victim, I will call it out.

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