By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
In early 2004, Yousefzadeh, of Nighttime Broadway Corporation, applied for a permit to sell alcohol on the premises, city records show. John Borunda, a retired veteran LAPD officer, acted as an expediter for the company, as did clothing retailers Neajat and Josef Sarshar.
According to a letter of approval dated January 21, 2005, the 740 Club is in a moderate crime zone with “a very high concentration of alcohol sales establishments.” Its operators wanted the club open until 6 a.m., with alcohol cut off at 2 a.m.
Just prior to a public hearing on December 6, 2004, LAPD officers from the Central Area Vice Unit said that extended hours and young patrons could create problems for the burgeoning residential market.
Although police opposed the 6 a.m. closing time, the letter shows that, aside from police, there was “little opposition” during the hearing. It was “quickly determined” the application should be granted, even though a Nighttime Broadway representative said the owner did not have a tenant, and his answers to questions, the letter says, “were vague and speculative.”
After the brief hearing, Yousefzadeh submitted a pending-lease agreement with Verdugo’s company, The Entertainment Group. Rejecting police concerns, city Zoning Administrator Albert Landini approved a five-year permit with an option for another five years, stating, “It is this specific type of nightclub that the city is trying to encourage be developed on the Broadway Corridor.”
Following the city’s lead, the state of California issued a liquor license without commenting on Verdugo’s publicly reported misconduct in Whittier.
“If an operator hasn’t been found guilty of a crime of moral turpitude, it’s not likely we’d deny a license, once the local jurisdiction has approved a [conditional-use permit],” says Rick Ryan, a regional director at the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Building department records show that City Hall insiders helped the 740 Club through the permit process. However, the club still lacks final approval from the fire department, yet continues to allow raucous weekend crowds of close to 1,000.
Former city planning commissioner Steve Carmona helped the club pass its fire and building safety inspections, and Archeon Group, an architectural firm run by planning consultant Chris Pak, was instrumental in lobbying for a modification of building ordinances, records show. Pak and his company and employees have donated more than $40,000 in campaign contributions to L.A. city officials in recent years.
Meanwhile, head structural engineer Lincoln Lee, of the building department’s Case Management Unit, waived preliminary inspections and approved temporary-occupancy permits for the club. Last year, the Los Angeles Times exposed the Case Management Unit for offering end-runs around government red tape to building owners and developers who made significant political contributions to city officials. However, building department officials deny that the Case Management Unit handled the permit process for 740 Club.
Ed Rosenthal, a redevelopment specialist with CB Richard Ellis and an adviser to the city Community Redevelopment Agency, says the groomed path of the 740 Club is not unique. Yet he says he is surprised that Huizar and other politicos, such as Bell Gardens City Councilman Mario Beltran, who has claimed business ties to Verdugo, and La Puente Councilman John Solis, the 740 Club’s co-manager, would use a crime-magnet nightclub to hold political events and fund-raisers.
While he’s “not incredulous” about what they did, he finds it “incredible.”