SLO Brew move gains council approval
November 21, 2012
SLO Brew will move half a block from 1119 Garden Street to 736/738 Higuera Street, where it will take over the 15,000 square foot Carissa Building between Garden and Broad streets. The move makes way for the Garden Street Terrace project, developed as well by SLO Brew owner Hamish Marshall. SLO Brew’s current building must also undergo a seismic retrofit by 2015.
Though the council opposed numerous aspects of the proposed project at its initial hearing on the matter, it voted 4-0 Tuesday to allow the relocation of the all-in-one restaurant, bar, brewery and concert venue. Councilman Dan Carpenter, who owns commercial property in the area of the relocation, recused himself from the hearing due to a conflict of interest.
The council did, however, impose nearly 40 conditions on the project on top of the conditions Marshall agreed to following during the previous hearing.
Most notably, SLO Brew management agreed to sizably reduce the number of occupants it will allow inside the building. SLO Brew will have a maximum occupancy of 191 in its first floor bar and restaurant, as opposed to the 257 it planned for. The maximum occupancy of the second floor concert auditorium dropped from 600 to 473.
Although the council initially demanded that project planners remove a proposed rooftop patio from the design, SLO Brew management insisted that the rooftop experience was the “crown jewel” of the new facility. After many public speakers voiced their support for the rooftop patio and some complained that parking garages provided the only rooftop views in town, the council approved of the patio under restricted conditions.
The rooftop section of the building will function primarily as a restaurant, instead of a bar, with a maximum occupancy reduced from 145 to 49 people. Downtown Brew will serve food on the roof until 11 p.m. each night, upon which the patio section must close. The city will only allow quiet background music on the rooftop.
SLO Brew’s relocation passed the planning commission unanimously at the higher capacity and with much fewer restrictions on development. But, the citizens group Save Our Downtown appealed the project in order to dramatically reduce its size. The council first heard the appeal in September, but it continued the hearing until Tuesday and asked that SLO Brew planners return with a smaller project and no rooftop patio.
Though the developer did not eliminate the patio, they did return with a reduced capacity plan that the council viewed as a fair compromise between SLO Brew and Save Our Downtown.
“I feel really that this process has come up with a good compromise,” Mayor Jan Marx said. “The reduction in the size that was first proposed is significant to me.”
Councilwoman Kathy Smith thanked Save Our Downtown for appealing the project.
“I think we’ve learned a lot just listening to each other during these meetings,” Smith said.
The council approved the project after a four-hour hearing that included comments from the applicant, appellant and nearly 40 members of the public, most of whom supported the relocation.
SLO Brew owner Hamish Marshall said during the hearing that the many conditions the city was placing on his new facility restricted his ability to profit from the project and even finance it.
“It’s really hard to do business anyway, and to have conditions written upon conditions upon conditions makes it even more difficult to manage those conditions,” Marshall said.
Bill Hales, owner of Frog and Peach, a competing bar located right beside where SLO Brew is moving, supported Marshall and said the city imposes enough conditions as is on bars.
“You’re under more regulation than anybody but banks.” Hales said.
Save Our Downtown representative Alan Cooper said his organization was not trying to put SLO Brew out business, but rather asking that it relocate at its current size.