A cry for less bureaucracy

Sam Lanni, the owner of Safari Sam's, has gone public with a rant about City Hall bleeding him dry before he can open his long-awaited club on Sunset Boulevard in East Hollywood. He had to cancel planned opening nights earlier this month when city inspectors didn't show and work couldn't get done. From his website:

There are times when all of us need to take a moment and take stock of our city and its bureaucracy. I wish tell you [sic] a short story of my dream as it turned into my nightmare.

Twenty-three months ago I dreamed of opening a new Safari Sam's club in Hollywood - a venue that would provide a stage to great performers and where we could commingle art, music and theater. Our mission at Safari Samís is to bring our audience performances that aren't just directed at our desires, but also at our minds. So, I bought an adult strip club that had been a thorn in the cities side, and closed it. I then hired an architect, a facilitator for our conditional use and alcohol permits, as well as a consultant to help me move through the different city departments. All I wanted to do was increase the bathroom space, renovate the kitchen, add a mezzanine and put in a second bar.

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I would think that after spending over $900,000 on opening a club (and of which only about $400,000 has gone to actual construction vs. city fees, filings, permits, etc.) I would be open by now. And yet I am not.


Is it the fault of the permit process that has been established? Probably. Is it the fault of inspectors who seem to find innocuous problems and then take their time to return to make further inspections of our corrections? Probably. Or is it the fault of the goal that as a community we have set to make everything in life completely safe from anything that may happen? What price do we pay as a city when we reduce the opportunity for citizens from affording to open new businesses? The price is reflected when we see mostly national chains and franchises open their doors. Who else can afford the wait?

So here I am now with a club that is 99% ready to open but not able to because of a fire department that is either understaffed or overworked to finish our final inspections. This last round of delays has finally drained us of the last of our capital. On Sunday my wife and I put our house up for sale and we have come to the realization that we may never open this club. Twenty-three months ago I thought $900,000 would be enough. In my city I was wrong. I now need about $50,000 more to get us through.

Here's a piece in the OC Weekly about Lanni and his Hollywood troubles, mention in the Times of a plea for more money last December, and posting on LA.com this month about cancelling the club's Valentine's Day show.


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