After about 2½ hours of discussion and debate, the Costa Mesa City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a proposal to open a Bootlegger’s Brewery in town.
The council’s vote affirms a Planning Commission decision to allow the microbrewery to open a location in 2,703 square feet of existing building space at 696 Randolph Ave., next to The Lab commercial center.
Bootlegger’s also operates in Fullerton and Redlands.
As at the commission’s hearing on the matter in August, the primary concern raised by some neighbors Tuesday was that the proposed microbrewery would aggravate parking woes in the area.
“I’m not against progress, I’m not against development,” said Robert Burnand, a Randolph Avenue business owner who appealed the commission’s decision to the council. “I rather like The Lab and The Camp — great places, nice restaurants, nice people around — but you can’t keep cramming bars, restaurants and boutiques into an area this size and impacting the lives and the properties of others negatively.”
As part of the council’s vote to approve the microbrewery, members stipulated that, should the city form a parking district in the area at some point, the applicant would agree to participate.
“I think they’ve got a lot of character and they’re the type of business that we want in our community,” Councilman John Stephens said. “I would expect that a business owner like that would do their fair share.”
City staff also will return to the council within a few months with a proposal to prepare a comprehensive parking plan for the Sobeca District — a 39-acre area around The Lab and The Camp on Bristol Street — according to Barry Curtis, Costa Mesa’s economic and development services director.
Such a plan could include things such as restriping streets to create additional on-street parking or providing enticements to use ride services like Lyft and Uber, according to the city.
“Hopefully we can get moving on this parking study, we can have something come to council and we can start investing, like everyone else is doing, in this area so that it’s an area that’s quality for everybody,” Mayor Katrina Foley said.
Bootlegger’s owner Aaron Barkenhagen told the council that the Costa Mesa location represents a homecoming of sorts. He used to live in the city, he said, and brewed his first batch of homemade beer in his brother’s garage in Costa Mesa almost 20 years ago.
The Bootlegger’s site will include space for brewing production, storage and offices, as well as a 745-square-foot tasting room and a 295-square-foot outdoor patio.
Vehicles would access the site through The Lab property, to the north. The existing narrow driveway off Randolph would be closed off and used as a pedestrian paseo.
James Trush — a member of the board of directors of the Creekside Office Condominiums across Randolph from the Bootlegger’s site — said parking in the area “is clearly not sufficient.”
“If the application is approved, the owners at Creekside ... are going to be directly impacted,” he said. “We’re the ones who are going to suffer the financial impact of this applicant’s lack of parking.”
There are 12 onsite parking spaces at 696 Randolph. For Bootlegger’s and existing office space on the property, city codes require that 23 spaces be provided.
To meet the parking requirement, Bootlegger’s would tap into two nearby lots used by The Lab at 700 and 710 Randolph.
City staff said there’s sufficient supply to accommodate the projected demand, but critics said those lots already fill on a regular basis.
“I understand there’s concerns with parking, but my hope is that we don’t become the sacrificial lamb for parking in the Sobeca area,” Barkenhagen said. “We’re a small company, we’re a family-owned business … we have a lot on the line to make this happen.”
Some in the audience made sarcastic comments such as “Aww” and “Boo-hoo.” But several dozen microbrewery supporters applauded his remarks.
Originally, a group called called Sobeca Parking and Access Reform Kickstart, or SPARK, also filed an appeal against the Bootlegger’s proposal.
But after a meeting with Foley and city staff, the group withdrew the appeal, writing in a letter Monday that it is “confident that the ongoing parking issues in the Sobeca area are being addressed.”
Burnand, however, said he thinks too many businesses already are licensed to sell or serve alcohol in the area and that he regularly has to clean up vomit, urine, broken bottles, empty beer cans and other litter on his property.
Barkenhagen said that over the years, he and his team have “done our best to be good citizens in every aspect of our business.”