Relax, urban beer drinkers.

The city’s plan to add a new regulation on certain brewery tasting rooms, to close a loophole in state liquor law that allowed them to open near residential areas without much review, is now moot.

Turns out, the state closed the loophole two weeks ago when it passed AB 2010. The city proposed the new regulation without knowing state law had been changed, which it discovered after state officials contacted them following our story earlier this week. (We too found out about the state law after our story published.)

“Now, it sounds to us like there is a public review process, just like with other (Alcoholic Beverage Control) licenses, so we don’t need to require an (additional permit),” said Amanda Lee, with the city’s development services department, who had written the new draft regulation as part of a regular update to the city’s development requirements.

Previously, breweries could get a license to open a second tasting room away from their manufacturing facility, usually in areas with existing foot traffic, without having to wait for a public review process. The second license was considered an extension of the first license, and it was issued immediately.

The city wanted to give the community a chance to weigh in, so it had planned to add a new permit requirement that would have made the brewery seek community feedback.

But the state passed a bill just before the close of the last session that was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown and took effect immediately – that law said secondary tasting rooms should go through basically the same process as a bar or restaurant looking for a license.

There is one difference. Though the breweries will have to go through a full hearing, which can be protested by the police department or local residents (the San Diego Police Department challenges most license applications as a matter of policy), but residents within 500 feet of the establishment won’t get a notification mailed to them, as is the case with a typical bar.

Jennifer Hill, with the San Diego ABC office, said the city and county of San Diego have more of these secondary tasting rooms than anywhere else in the state.

She said the public review period could last from three to six months for a typical tasting room. That’s comparable to the city’s expectation if it had required the new permit.

Lee, with the city, said the new development code is still going to include an update that defines each type of brewery tasting room, it just won’t require an additional development permit.

“The brewing industry wants more predictability in the code, so we think we should have the separate categories so our staff understands the difference between a brewery, with an accessory tasting room on site, and satellite tasting rooms without manufacturing, that functions like a beer bar.”

Andrew Keatts

I'm Andrew Keatts, a managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org...

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