Blanquel Popular Art, a long-established Mexican custom furniture and art store in downtown Fullerton, along with the neighboring Plant Store, may be replaced by an establishment called World of Beer.
The item appeared on the agenda of the Fullerton Planning Commission during their September 15 meeting. A request was made for a conditional use permit (CUP) by Bijalkumar Patel & Dhaval Panchal and property owner Carlo Terranova. Approval of the CUP would allow World of Beer, a new restaurant with entertainment, to move into the storefront at 109 S. Harbor downtown (currently occupied by Blanquel Popular Art and the Plant Store).
The item was continued to the Nov 17 meeting on request of the applicant.
According to Rodrigo Blanquel, son of the owner Florencio Blanquel, they first learned about the possible change when a notice of a public hearing appeared taped to their door at the end of August. The owner of the building, Carlo Terranova, did not previously inform them of this hearing.
“The owner made it seem like he didn’t know what was going on, that he wouldn’t know until after the commission meeting,” Blanquel said. “It’s kind of weird that he didn’t know what’s going on. It’s his building.”
Terranova said that World of Beer began the process to get a CUP before the pandemic, in late 2019 or early 2020, and that he spoke with Blanquel at that time about the possibility of the restaurant/bar moving in. He said he intended to keep both Blanquel and the Plant Store informed, and that he was caught off guard when the postings went up on these businesses.
“That’s the part that I feel bad about,” Terranova said. “I didn’t know and then someone told me because they read about it in the paper. As soon as I confirmed that that was happening, I reached out to both tenants. But the posting had already gone up, so the damage emotionally had already been done.”
Florencio Blanquel opened Blanquel Popular Art in 2000 in Downtown Fullerton. His family has owned a custom furniture store in Guadalajara since the 1960s, and he wanted to expand his business into the US.
Florencio builds and imports custom furniture. He also sells Mexican pottery and other works of art. He displays and sells work by local artists.
“It’s something that my family, my dad, has put a lot into. He has invested a lot into the community,” Rodrigo said.
Terranova says that he is friends with the Blanquels and has helped them by keeping their rent low.
Florencio wants to stay and keep his shop where it has been for the last 20 years. Whether he is able to do that will depend on his landlord, the planning commission, and perhaps the community.
There are currently around 58 businesses with alcohol licenses in the Downtown area alone. An administrative judge said in 2016 there should be five alcohol licenses for a downtown census tract based on ABC guidelines and population density. According to a study done in 2007, the downtown area actually costs taxpayers around $1 million a year in public safety and other costs. That number is likely higher today.
Blanquel said the current concentration of bars around his business requires him to regularly clean up vomit, urine, and sometimes worse.
“I actually walked the three blocks of Downtown Fullerton and you’d be surprised how many liquor licenses there are—over 50. What is the purpose? Are we just saying no to the arts here in Fullerton, no to culture?”
Terranova said that World of Beer is a restaurant with a bar, something akin to the Yard House. The CUP application asks that the business be open until 2am, suggesting a nightlife component. He added that that area, the SoCo District, is meant for businesses like World of Beer.
“I don’t think it’s bad for the community when the right use is at the right place,” Terranova said. “The SoCo district, in my view, has always been intended for a more high-impact public use, and that’s why since we attained the property way back in 2004, it was always our intention to put a restaurant in there.”
The Planning Commission will consider whether to issue a conditional use permit for World of Beer at their November 17 meeting. The meeting will take place at City Hall (303 W Commonwealth Ave.) at 6:30pm. Members of the public may give public comment. Contact the City Clerk at (714) 738-6350.
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