Patrons of the recently opened Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits at Alamitos Bay. Photo: Asia Morris
The Long Beach City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to lift certain restrictions on prospective alcohol beverage manufacturing (ABM) businesses looking to open in the city. The move comes about 18 months after the council made its first efforts to drive the craft brewing industry to Long Beach.
Long Beach has seen an influx of beer-related businesses open up over the past year and a half but not the type of businesses the ABM vote in 2015 sought to attract. Brewery production facilities without a kitchen but with a tasting room—Beachwood’s Blendery is considered a bar by city zoning—have run into issues in trying to set up shop within Long Beach with one of the biggest being the lack of available parking.
Among the amendments voted on by the council last night and set for a finalization during its November 22 meeting were the reduction of required parking spots for ABMs to 10 spaces for every 1,000 feet of its tasting room, with no additional required parking for manufacturing. Parking for businesses located in industrial zones will stay at the original mark of two spaces for every 1,000 feet.
The changes also allow for tasting rooms located in commercial zones to remain open until 11:00PM on Fridays and Saturdays, with the ability to apply for later hours through an administrative use permit. The same kind of permit process will now apply to businesses seeking to open facilities larger than 6,000 feet, something that would’ve previously required a more expensive conditional use permit process. Production located in a commercial zone will still be limited to 15,000 barrels per year.
They also eliminated preschools and kindergartens from the 500-foot buffer zone laid out in the city’s zoning guidelines and added an exemption from that buffer zone regarding elementary, middle and high schools if the brewery is located within the Downtown Plan.
“We do believe that these amendments provide the flexibility that you are looking for,” said Long Beach Development Services Director Amy Bodek.
The proposals had been reviewed and approved by the city’s planning commission late last month and forwarded to the council for a vote during last night’s meeting. The issue regarding the buffer zones around schools being eliminated in some instances had created some discussion during the planning commission’s meeting but ultimately was quashed on the grounds that most tasting rooms wouldn’t be open for business until after schools let out.
Long Beach has become somewhat of a hub for the exploding craft beer industry and has imported successful brewers and restaurants with ties to the industry in the past few months. San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing opened at Alamitos Bay over the summer, Great Society Cider and Mead followed in August and just last week, Los Angeles’ Koreatown favorite, Beer Belly, opened Downtown.
Mayor Robert Garcia, who had pushed for the city to be more inclusive of the industry during his stint as the First District councilman preceding his election as mayor, again recognized the beer economy as “real” and touted the growing number of beer destinations that have safely opened across the city. He noted a high amount of interest remains regarding a few new operations set to open in the near future, adding that the easing of requirements on ABMs could be beneficial to the local economy.
“This is a very good thing for business,” Garcia said. “Anytime you can cut the red tape a little bit and make things easier it’s always a good thing.”