Commission Says ‘Yes’ to Tasting Rooms

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A beer tasting event. Newport Beach Planning Commission voted recently to allow on-site alcohol consumption, like tasting rooms.
— Photo credit: Pixabay

Locals in West Newport Mesa may soon find themselves “tasting” drinks in the upcoming craft alcoholic beverage manufacturing business following a city commission vote last week.

The Newport Beach Planning Commission on March 22 approved a recommendation, with conditions, to City Council for an amendment to the Zoning Code revising some of the city’s regulations.

Alcoholic beverage manufacturing is allowed in the Industrial (IG) Zoning District, but there is no ordinance in place that allows for on-site consumption, like tasting rooms. With last week’s amendment, that is set to change for the IG zoned area located near Placentia Avenue and 16th Street, along the Costa Mesa border.

It applies to breweries, wineries and distilleries, explained Assistant Planner Chelsea Crager. The tasting room is meant to be “accessory” to the primary manufacturing use, she said.

They voted 6 to 1, with Commissioner Lauren Kleiman dissenting. The recommendation needs to be reviewed and voted on by the City Council.

Some standards in the amendment include a maximum limit of 750 square feet for a tasting room and 1,000 square feet for an outdoor patio. Live entertainment may be permitted on a case by case basis. Parking requirements include one space per 500 square feet of gross floor area or “as required by the review authority.”

According to the staff report, the Newport Beach Police Department has also incorporated security and training standards into the amendment and is not opposed to the allowance of tasting rooms with no late hours (after 11 p.m.) in the IG Zoning District

Commissioners also added the requirement of a conditional use permit.

They expressed a few concerns about parking and the live entertainment option, prompting them to require the CUP. A conditional use permit would need to be heard and approved by the Planning Commission, which would provide more transparency and allow for public comment, as Commissioner Lee Lowrey pointed out.

Commissioner Erik Weigand asked to improve the language regarding parking in an effort to help protect the existing businesses in the area. For some flexibility with the parking requirements, he suggested adding the “or as required by the review authority.”

This would give the city the option to possibly require more parking, when necessary, explained Deputy Community Development Director Jim Campbell. It would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

The Industrial Zoning District in West Newport Mesa where the Newport Beach Planning Commission voted recently to allow on-site alcohol consumption, like tasting rooms.
— Art courtesy city of Newport Beach

This is limited to the industrial zone, but that doesn’t mean commercial zone is out of the picture for the future.

“This is really kind of a test bed,” Campbell said. “If it works here we might look at other areas of town, but… we didn’t want to open it up to all the commercial zones without a lot more consideration.”

Local business owners who spoke during public comment were split on whether or not this is a good thing for the area.

Gordon Wanlass, who has owned a building in the area for more than 20 years, had some concerns and questions.

“Why is the city trying this? And now I hear that we’re the guinea pigs for something that might be tried across the city,” Wanlass said. “We’re really unsure about what the city’s plan for this area is and how alcohol sales are going to affect our area. We’d like to work with the city.”

There is already a parking problem, he added.

“We’d really like to work with the Planning Commission to see what’s right for what is a very unique area,” he added

Resident Jim Mosher also pointed out that the term “tasting room” is not very accurate as there is no limit on how much a person can “taste.”

“They’re really drinking establishments, they operate as pubs,” he said.

Another local business owner, Ian Elliott, agreed that parking is an issue in the community. He’d also like to work with the city to find a better solution for the area.

The piecemeal approach is a problem, Elliott noted.

There were also several local business owners who supported the change, like Becca Mantei, who said she is “beyond excited” for the idea. Customers have mentioned wanting a space nearby to hang out, she said. The area is quickly changing, she added, and this type of business would be welcome.

“There are so many new, young people that coming there that are craving a place like that would be like these spots,” she said. “I think this would be such a great addition to the neighborhood.”

They never have a problem with parking, she added.

Fellow business owner Kyle Kennelly agreed and called it an interesting opportunity for the city.

“This could be a really rad thing to bring up the cultural quality of Newport,” he said.

Richard Allred, another owner in the area, concurred.

The area is changing tremendously, commented Allred, who has conducted business in the neighborhood for about 15 years. It’s turned into an environment for people to live, work and socialize all in the same neighborhood, he noted.

This is a viable opportunity for the area to grow, Allred said

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