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Saturday, February 23 , 2019, 10:09 pm | Fair 36º


Libertine Brewing’s Tasting Room Proposal Comes Up Flat

Santa Maria Planning Commission denied request to operate tasting room in A Street location

A proposal to allow a tasting room to be added to Libertine Brewing Company’s storage and distribution center in the A Street Business Center was turned down this week by the Santa Maria Planning Commission.
A proposal to allow a tasting room to be added to Libertine Brewing Company’s storage and distribution center in the A Street Business Center was turned down this week by the Santa Maria Planning Commission. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A craft-brew company plans to appeal after a request for a conditional-use permit to operate a tasting room in a Santa Maria industrial park was rejected this week.

The Santa Maria Planning Commission voted 3-1 Wednesday night to deny the permit for Libertine Brewing Company.

Commissioner Adrian Andrade voted against the denial while Commissioner Tim Seifert abstained from the discussion and vote. 

The craft beer firm, which has facilities in Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo, sought the permit to include a tasting room in its 8,295-square-foot building at 2325 A Street.

“Although it puts certain stipulations on our operation, we feel confident that with time we’ll be able to prove ourselves as an outstanding business in the community and prosper along with our neighbors,” said Eric Newton from Libertine Brewing.

The brewery’s storage and distribution operations at the site are allowed, but the conditional-use permit is needed for the tasting room. Brewing operations occur at the San Luis Obispo location with bottling and storage done in Santa Maira.

“We’re not a bar. We’re a small tasting room,” Newton said. “We’ll be surprised if we see four or five cars there. We’re a high-end product.”

The site is in the A Street Business Center, where some businesses own their buildings and others lease space from developer Richard Meyer.

Tenants have parking space in front of and behind their buildings, with on-street parking banned.

Due to the restricted parking, city staff proposed limited tasting to 14 people, with options to expand in the future. 

Even with proposed added conditions, the debate came down to location, and specifically the available parking for the complex.

“Try as I might, even with I think too many sacrifices that you all have agreed to in your proposed conditions, I can’t make the finding that the tasting room in the proposed location is not going to have an adverse effect on abutting properties,” Commissioner Gayle Pratt said.

Chairwoman Maribel Aguilera-Hernandez agreed. 

“I truly believe that we continue to place conditions on this particular business because it doesn’t belong in that area,” she said.

Neighbors opposed the tasting room, citing parking and other concerns. 

After reviewing the project April 6, commissioners proposed additional conditions, including limiting the number of patrons to 20, or 14 if Libertine was unable to secure an agreement share parking spaces with a neighbor. 

To ease neighbors’ concerns, Libertine hosted a meeting and provided a tour, but objections remained. 

James Simms of Simms Machinery International owns a neighboring building, and earlier this month presented a petition with signatures of businesses opposed to the permit. 

On Wednesday night, he restated his concerns regarding the proposed tasting room across the parking lot from his firm.

"If there had been a beer tasting room across from us, I would have never bought the building,” Simms said, adding that the driveway is congested.

Newton said he attempted to reach out to Simms to open a line of communication.

“Although our attempts were ignored, we believe our business is a positive addition to the development, and we believe our business will not have any negative effect on his operations, for several reasons …” he said. 

Those include proposed off-hour operations, a parking plan, alcohol-safety plans and a review in six months to assess the tasting room’s impact.

But neighbors said they don’t operate during normal business hours because they have customers across the globe.

Former Buellton businessman Hans Duus said he operated his custom-lighting firm in the city’s industrial park for 21 years, but saw the character change.

“It was industrial,” Duus said. “It is alcohol now.”

While bottling, storing and aging operations would fit in an industrial area, consumption of beer does not, he added. 

The applicant intends to appeal the denial to the Santa Maria City Council, a company representative said Thursday.

An applicant has two weeks to file an appeal, and it likely would be heard within two months, Planning Division Manager Peter Gilli added .

In other actions, the commission agreed to allow The Towbes Group to build senior-citizen apartments on some of the land intended for a neighborhood shopping center. 

The change affects the Westgate area covered under the Blosser-Southwest Specific Plan.

While some retail space would be reduced, the project would provide much-needed senior housing, Gilli added.

Despite the change, a small neighborhood shopping center is still proposed along Blosser Road north of Battles Road. 

The commission also approved several items related to the proposed Preisker Commercial Center that calls for construction of a 108-room hotel, a drive-thru restaurant, and two commercial pads on a 5-acre site .

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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