Newport council says no to alcohol tasting rooms

Newport council says no to alcohol tasting rooms
Guests fill the room during the soft opening for Gunwhale Ales in Costa Mesa’s Sobeca District in 2016. (File Photo)

Newport Beach is pulling back on where to pull taps.

Craft brewers and other alcoholic beverage manufacturers who want to attach tasting rooms where they set up shop in the city's industrial area won't be doing it anytime soon after the City Council unanimously voted Tuesday against a zoning code amendment that would have allowed the rooms.


The Planning Commission approved the proposed amendment in March.

Councilwoman Diane Dixon suggested picking the issue back up during the city's upcoming general plan update, which is expected to begin in 2019.


But she and others on the council were concerned that tasting rooms wouldn't be compatible with the area, a relatively small and mixed-use pocket of West Newport around 16th Street and Placentia Avenue. Neighbors include Pacifica Christian High School, Carden Hall and Coastline Community College. Residential neighborhoods border the area to the south.

Alcoholic beverage manufacturing — but not onsite consumption — is allowed in the industrial area as "food processing." Beverage manufacturing and onsite consumption are allowed in areas zoned for restaurants, such as Newport Beach Brewing Co., which has a full bar and menu at its Newport Boulevard location.

The proposed rule would have allowed tasting rooms up to 750 square feet and outdoor patios up to 1,000 square feet, with hours limited to 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., subject to review on a case-by-case basis. Food and entertainment also would have been allowed, but the idea was for the tasting rooms to be accessory uses, not to transform the businesses into restaurants or nightclubs, city staff has said.

But "if it quacks, it's a duck," Dixon said. "This is a bar."

Councilman Brad Avery, whose district includes the area, agreed that tasting rooms look like bars, and at a potential total of 1,750 square feet, would not be small. He said he wanted to gather more public input.

Mayor Marshall Duffield, who is familiar with the area as a historic home for boat-building, said parking would be an issue.

Stephanie Elliott, who owns a business in the area, agreed, telling the council that parking is bad around the clock.

The potential change came after Costa Mesa's Gunwhale Ales approached Newport Beach last fall proposing a combination manufacturing and retail location for its "coastal ales" concept in the industrial zone. City staff and Gunwhale officials have said tasting rooms are an important business component for modern microbreweries.

But there are no pending applications for breweries in the area, said city planner Chelsea Crager.

Dixon said that without any urgency, she wanted to wait a few months for the broader general plan talks.

"Let's just do it right," she said.

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