OCEANSIDE — Most bare bones craft breweries are located off main roads on the honeycombed streets of businesses parks and other industrial zone areas. Oceanside is looking to change that and allow breweries in its commercial zone along Coast Highway.
Currently there are bars that sell beer brewed off site and breweries with restaurants along parts of Coast Highway.
New zoning laws would set guidelines for craft breweries that manufacture and sell beer on site and do not sell food.
“This animal, so to speak, is Breakwater and Bagby without the restaurant,” Russ Cunningham, city principal planner, said.
Cunningham said the zoning amendment is about more than craft breweries and wineries. The zoning change would allow small-scale artisan manufacturing with a commercial sales component to operate within the beachfront commercial district.
“It’s rethinking the specifications of use,” Cunningham said. “We want to trouble the assumption that you can’t have manufacturing occur in a commercial zone when that manufacturing is low to no impact.”
The extent of the review and approval process for craft breweries would depend on the size of the business. A craft brewery that occupies 5,000 square feet and outputs 6,000 barrels a year would be allowed by right. One that occupies 15,000 square feet and outputs 16,000 barrels annually would need a conditional use permit.
Performance standards would include exterior signage restricted to name logo, no reduced price happy hour, nighttime operations limited to 10 p.m., and the requirement that sold alcohol be manufactured on site.
Cunningham said the zoning amendment is a first step to create businesses synergy along Coast Highway. He said there are great restaurants, but not enough support businesses to get people to stay, window shop and stroll downtown.
“People are dinning and leaving,” Cunningham said. “We want to find that mix of businesses that brings them here and keeps them here for a period of time.”
Breweries and other artisan manufacturers could get the ball rolling and attract a range of businesses to downtown.
A public workshop was held on Wednesday to collect community input through a pen and paper questionnaire and informal open discussion.
Restaurant and brewery owners, alcohol prevention advocates, city police and residents shared their concerns.
While not exclusive to breweries, a lot of comments focused on downtown growth, business deliveries, and shrinking parking. There was discussion of a future fee for allowed by right businesses to fund city parking lots. Allowed by right businesses do not have parking requirements.
Specific to breweries, residents and prevention advocates said they want an opportunity for public input before a brewery is approved.
“Allowed by right businesses have no public input at all,” Eric Collins, Institute for Public Strategies project manager, said. “You could have a multitude of breweries and an over concentration of alcohol outlets.”
Jeff Bagby, owner of Bagby Beer Company brewery and restaurant on South Coast Highway, said he has concerns about people starting up breweries that are under qualified and have little experience.
On a positive note, Bagby and others said successful breweries bring in significant tax revenues and notoriety that boosts the city’s economy. The National University System Institute for Policy Research found San Diego County craft breweries generated $299.5 million in direct economic impact in 2011.
Speakers added breweries that sell an $8 glass of beer draw a more sophisticated crowd that is better for business than bars selling $2 pitchers of beer.
“We’re looking at a huge potential,” Bagby said.
Next steps will be for city planning staff to collect input from the Downtown Advisory Committee and Planning Commission, refine the draft zoning amendment and present it to the City Council. Zoning changes are expected to be brought to council by June.
The North Park in San Diego is among the few communities that allow craft breweries in a commercial zone.
The final sentence in this story has been corrected since its original posting.