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Council: Shaved ice kiosk can’t have drive-thru lane
• Commission decision upheld
Heaven Snow coffee
Coffees, lattes and espressos are now offered at Heaven Snow, the kiosk in the La Sequoia Market on Central Avenue. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Heaven Snow will not be able to have a drive-thru lane for their small kiosk that sells coffees and shaved ice products.

On Monday the Ceres City Council heard an appeal lodged by owner Violet Saveh who didn’t like the 5-0 decision made by the Ceres Planning Commission in April. Commissioners decided Saveh may operate year-round instead of six months out of the year but rejected her request for a drive-up lane. Councilmembers backed up their decision despite a sometimes emotional appeal made by Saveh.

The shaved ice business has been in operation in the La Sequoia Market parking lot on Central Avenue since 2007. Last winter it added coffees and mochas to their product line. The business had been restricted to operate under an administrative permit and no more than six months.

In September 2021 owners Saveh and Hector Irasava spoke with city staff about year-round operations. The city allowed the business to remain open between October and April to see how business in colder months would fare. They found there was enough business to justify staying open in the fall and winter, so the owners requested the city to formalize permission to operate year-round.

In a statement to the council, Saveh said she only wanted the ability to let customers order items while sitting in their car at the window and they would park and her staff would bring the drinks out to them. She said she was only thinking of the elderly, handicapped or moms with children.

“We just don’t think it’s fair not to be given a chance and see how it all will continue to go on, especially since in 15 years there has not been one big issue that has caused a major problem,” wrote Saveh.

However the request for a use permit to operate a drive-thru lane was turned down despite city staff’s view that the request was in line with commercial zones. The administrative permits that were approved in previous years did not allow for a drive-thru operation due to concerns that a drive-thru would potentially obstruct traffic flow inside the parking lot area that also serves the customers of La Sequoia Super Market and fears that vehicles would be queuing into the Central Avenue roadway and thus impeding off-site traffic flow. Ceres High School and Caswell Schools are located on the busy thoroughfare.

To address concerns about potential traffic conflicts with the drive-thru, Saveh proposed to utilize the side parking lot window on the east end of her building only for taking orders and payment and incorporating a directional sign on the building that indicates that no more than two vehicles would be allowed at a time in the drive-thru.

At the time of the commission’s hearing, Commissioner Bob Kachel said while the owners are “trying very hard to make this work,” he shared his concern about the drive-thru operation in a confined parking lot.

“It’s kind of a difficult place to maneuver into,” said Kachel.  “I just don’t think a lot of thought has been put into the drive-thru portion of this thing from a safety point of view and an operational point of view.”

Kachel suggested that after being in business for 15 years, the business might be better off to “get a permanent building at a location where it’s appropriate and they can have a better entrance and exit.”

All five commissioners voted in favor of allowing Heaven Snow to operate year-round – without a drive-thru.

On Monday, Councilman Mike Kline believed a drive-thru would cause traffic backups, citing how close the kiosk is to the entrance on Central Avenue.

“I agree with Councilman Kline,” said Vice Mayor Bret Silveira, “just the way it’s currently configured and where your business is located it’s just not a safe option for a drive-thru. It does go against the flow of traffic, the way the parking lot’s been designed and to ask people to limit the amount of cars in line is, I believe, unrealistic also.”

The council voted 3-1 to deny the appeal, with Mayor Javier Lopez being the lone vote in favor of giving the business a chance to test the lane.