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Breaking Down The Difference Between San Diego’s Bars And Breweries

— When a new microbrewery opens it’ll often have a tasting room where the public can stop in and try the beer that’s being made there. Under California law, these tasting rooms and breweries are regulated differently than a typical bar.

Aired 7/6/12 on KPBS News.

With all the new breweries opening in San Diego, there are more and more tasting rooms popping up. But what’s the difference between a tasting room and a bar?

Green Flash Brewing Company's tasting room.
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Above: Green Flash Brewing Company's tasting room.

Russ Gibbon is with the San Diego Economic Development Office and often works with local breweries. He said regular bar licenses are more difficult to get. But once a bar has one, it isn't likely to face as many operating restrictions from local police. Tasting rooms and microbreweries fall under a different license, which is easier to obtain but will likely bring more restrictions from police.

“Those agreements for those operating conditions may limit hours of operation, both inside and any kind of outdoor area,” Gibbon said. “They almost always restrict no gaming, no entertainment, no live entertainment.”

Gibbon said microbreweries in the city are complying with the restrictions placed on them.

There are 12 microbreweries in the city of San Diego, with two more expected to open by the end of the year.

Last August Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher authored legislation that exempted beer tasting rooms from the strict regulations created for restaurants and food production facilites. The law, which Governor Jerry Brown signed, instead puts beer tasting rooms on par with wine tasting rooms.

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Avatar for user 'jeffhammett'

jeffhammett | July 6, 2012 at 1:26 p.m. ― 4 years, 8 months ago

There's a lot of confusion about bars vs brewery tasting rooms, and this piece may help clear a bit of that up, but using a photo of Bottlecraft ("Beer Shop and Tasting Room") only helps to increase the confusion.

Bottlecraft isn't a tasting room in the same way Societe, Green Flash or any of the other local breweries have tasting rooms. Bottlecraft has a license similar to many bars which allows them to serve beer, it's not the same as a manufacturers license which many of the breweries operate their tasting rooms under.

Confusing subject, but thanks KPBS for getting the good word about our local beer industry out!

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Avatar for user 'Katie Orr'

Katie Orr | July 6, 2012 at 1:30 p.m. ― 4 years, 8 months ago

Thanks for the clarification, jeffhammett. We'll make sure the picture gets changed.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | July 6, 2012 at 2:56 p.m. ― 4 years, 8 months ago

So if a restaurant makes its own beer... is it a tasting room? Can they have music playing?
These seem like some pretty odd restrictions. Is there a reason for them?

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Avatar for user 'Katie Orr'

Katie Orr | July 6, 2012 at 3:13 p.m. ― 4 years, 8 months ago

benz72, the permit for tasting rooms falls under the "Small Beer Manufacturers" category. So places like Pizza Port or Karl Strauss (places that brew their own beer on site) would use the same permit. Here's the language:

SMALL BEER MANUFACTURER - (Brew Pub or Micro-brewery) Authorizes the same privileges and restrictions as a Type 01. A brewpub is typically a very small brewery with a restaurant. A micro-brewery is a small-scale brewery operation that typically is dedicated solely to the production of specialty beers, although some do have a restaurant or pub on their manufacturing plant.

As I understand it, there are often more restrictions placed on these kind of places to discourage them from turning into de facto bars.

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