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Shoe on other foot for women's wear retailer

City Council denies request by Muse boutique owner to open a shoe store after retailers object.

October 20, 2006|By Barbara Diamond

A Forest Avenue store owner who marshaled opposition last year to a new women's clothing store across the street had the tables turned on him Tuesday.

The City Council voted unanimously to deny the application to open a new woman's shoe and accessory store submitted by Alan Hall, who already owns Muse and Randy's, all within less than two blocks on Forest Avenue. The council's vote upheld the Planning Commission's 4-0 denial of Hall's application, which the commissions said did not add to the down town's eclectic character.

"Alan blocked another retailer from coming in and now he's here, and I find that hypocritical," said store owner Laura Downing.

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Downing was one of the 11 owners of women's clothing and accessory stores who spoke at the council meeting in support of the Planning Commission's denial of Hall's application to open a another store on Forest that would cater to women.

Hall applied for a permit to open a shoe store at 265 Forest Ave. that also sold handbags, cosmetics, lingerie and accessories. He waved some scanty panties at the council during his presentation.

"I didn't want to open a shoe store," Hall said. "The city said open a shoe store."

Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson-Schneider said whoever told him that was in error and it would be investigated.

"Saturation and diversity is critical to the downtown," Pearson-Schneider said.

The staff report to the commission stated that women's shoe stores were not oversaturated in the downtown and the proposed shoe store would complement the existing Muse, which is exclusive to Laguna.

Hall claimed his proposed store would carry brands of shoes not carried by any other store in town. But shoes are shoes, regardless of the labels, one store owner said.

"He should have rented to me," said Elaine Roman, who claimed she tried unsuccessfully to rent the store from Hall. "My gallery is unique."

Hall thinks the commission erred in its decision, which he hoped to have overturned by the council.

He does not agree with commission that the saturation of women's clothing stores includes women's shoes.

"We believe there is a clear difference between a shoe store and a clothing store," Hall said in his appeal.

However, the cumulative effect of similar uses by many shopkeepers — a card played by Hall last year — worked against him this year.

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