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Heaven Snow may run year-round but no drive-thru
• Planning Commission weighs in
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 be allowed to operate year-round now that the Ceres Planning Commission has given its approval to excuse the kiosk business from the prior restriction of operating for only six months out of the year.

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

In September 2021 the owners, Hector Irasava and Violet Saveh, 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.

However the request for a use permit to operate a drive-thru lane was turned down Monday 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 serves the customers of La Sequoia Super Market and off-site traffic flow with vehicles queuing into the Central Avenue roadway. 

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.

Ceres resident John Warren expressed concerns about traffic backing up onto Central Avenue should a drive-thru lane be allowed.

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.”

He added: “I understand what you’re trying to do but I also think they’ve been in business for 15 years and now they want to go basically to a permanent business. It might be time to get a permanent building at a location where it’s appropriate and they can have a better entrance and exit.”

Commissioner Dave Johnson said while he had no problem with a year-round operation he foresaw too many problems with the drive-thru lane.

Daniel Martinez, another member of the commission, shared his concern about drive-thru backups.

Commission chairwoman Laurie Smith expressed concerns about being able to control traffic when there is “already so much traffic there with two schools and George’s Grill and the market and the bingo (hall) and it’s a four-way stop. I have real concerns about traffic cueing up onto Central Avenue so I am not in favor of a drive-thru component.”

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