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San Diego City Council Passes Measure Allowing Breweries To Expand

Aired 5/14/13 on KPBS News.

Large craft brewers in San Diego are one step closer to being able to build bigger tasting rooms and restaurants, thanks to a measure the City Council passed today.

Large craft brewers in San Diego are one step closer to being able to build bigger tasting rooms and restaurants, thanks to a measure the City Council passed today. But breweries will still need more approval to start building.

Beth Accomando

Mission Brewery in San Diego.

The City Council unanimously passed the measure to let large craft beer makers (at least 12,000 square feet in size) add larger full service restaurants or tasting rooms to their beer making facilities.

But breweries will still need the go-ahead from the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. The authority will have to determine the expansions are consistent with their land use plans for the region's airports.

Those brewpubs near the coast will also need Coastal Commission approval, which could take a year, city staff said.

Kathy Lippitt, an advocate with SAY San Diego, spoke against the measure at the meeting. She said these licenses can be dangerous and told the "cautionary tale" of a San Luis Obispo brewpub that she said was one of the biggest creators of alcohol and drug problems.

“The City Council needs to be aware of how these licenses could become some of your most problematic licenses by contributing to police events or arrests," Lippit said. "In San Luis Obispo, that’s exactly what happened.”

But City Council President Todd Gloria said allowing breweries to expand is good for San Diego’s economy.

“This is how you actually retain businesses," he said. "We know this will be consequential to several businesses who might have left San Diego who now will likely stay because we’ve done this.”

City Councilman Mark Kersey said the fact that this week is "American Craft Beer Week" made it an appropriate time to discuss the item.

Right now, San Diego breweries can’t have attached restaurants or tasting rooms that are greater than 3,000 square feet. That’s because breweries must be located in industrial zones, where large restaurants aren't allowed.

City staff say at least two craft brewers are looking to open restaurants or tasting rooms in San Diego’s city limits, but are blocked by current rules.

Those brewers "are reportedly evaluating sites outside the City of San Diego due to the limited number of industrial sites and buildings at feasible prices within the City," according to the council item summary.

Staff did not respond to requests about which brewers are threatening to leave.

In 2011, a bill by then-state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher allowed breweries to open tasting rooms without meeting the health and safety codes for restaurants, as long as those tasting rooms don't serve food.

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