Officials with the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control recommended approval Tuesday of an alcohol license for Ka Shabu in downtown Huntington Beach.
Staff Counsel Valoree Wortham and licensing representative Leonora Amante said during a hearing at the department's Santa Ana office that the Asian restaurant had already made concessions to the community while selling liquor under a temporary permit. They also said it would provide a unique dining experience in the neighborhood, due to its unusual style that allows customers to cook their own meals at the table.
Judge John Lewis, who mediated the hearing, said he would have a ruling within 30 days to the department's office in Sacramento. The department could then accept or reject his opinion.
Five residents have sent letters of protest to the department regarding the application by Ka Shabu, which opened last October at 301 Main St. Three of the protesters, Richard Plummer, Richardson Gray and David Rice, attended Tuesday's hearing.
All three are members of HB Neighbors, which recently published a report about the number of alcohol licenses downtown and the number of customers who flush into the city's streets. Rice, at the hearing, said he had no problem with alcohol-serving restaurants, but was worried for his family's safety in a neighborhood with so many of them packed together.
"I don't think we'd be sitting here if this applicant was a mile and a half away," he said.
Rice and Gray said they would drop their protest if Ka Shabu agreed to four conditions: closing at 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and at 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, making the alcohol license non-transferable to another owner, having an 85-15 ratio of food to liquor sales, and restricting the restaurant to serving the "hot-pot" fondue cuisine that it advertises.
General Manager Suzanne Stephens said Ka Shabu caters to a mature audience and that many customers would pass it by if alcohol was not on the menu.
"There are people who feel they have a right to come in and have a drink with dinner," she said.
Attorney William Le noted that the restaurant had already agreed to 10 conditions, which included no happy hours, no alcohol sales for off-premises consumption and closing hours at 11 p.m. or earlier.
Ka Shabu is the second Huntington Beach business to have its alcohol application go to a hearing in the last two years, following Stop N Go at 20361 Beach Blvd., which received its license last year.