Friday, September 26, 2014

Tasting Room Growth

The Voice of San Diego has an excellent, important article on the growth of, and issues surrounding brewery satellite tasting rooms.  According to the article, tasting rooms:
help address one issue that could affect the (craft beer) industry’s continued growth: They allow the businesses to meet customers where they are, rather than relying on people coming to them.
They are also a real source of profit to breweries, according to the article.  I am looking forward to a North Park-located Rip Current, and a Lost Abbey outpost that's only 30 minutes away compared to nearly an hour, or realistically, a location near a freeway I travel frequently (Interstate 5) compared to one off a highway (State Highway 78) I never use.

But not all is positive for tasting rooms, and this feel-good story has a curmudgeon:
But the easier process of opening urban tasting rooms could eventually stoke neighborhood concerns.

At a recent panel on planning concerns facing the craft beer industry, Amanda Lee, a senior planner with the city’s code enforcement group, said the city needs to consider whether satellite tasting rooms, technically called “retail tasting stores,” should have additional restrictions about where they could be located, or whether the city should be able to impose additional conditions on their permit to operate.

The thought is that at some point, the relative ease to open such a facility will run into community opposition.
I get that people do not want a bar with a bunch of loud rowdies near their house or schools.  The tasting rooms I've been to, by and large, are mellow places that do not attract drunks or hordes of hard drinking young men.  Yes, I see groups of young men at tasting rooms.  But I also see groups of young women, a lot of couples and, to put it bluntly, plenty of older people (myself included) at tasting rooms.  It's not your "whoop-it-up" crowd.  Most tasting rooms close early - 9:00 p.m., or 10:00 p.m. at the latest - and the bulk of the business is done earlier in the day.  And more importantly from a planner perspective, I have seen hyper-vigilance from tasting room employees in terms of how they sell and dispense beer, and watch customers. 

City planners (not just the one named in the article) should look to the long-term civic impact of a rash, not-in-my-backyard mentality when it comes to tasting rooms.  San Diego's brewing industry is real and growing.  It is creating jobs and attracting tourists, and tasting rooms help both.  Beer is now one of the prime reasons for a visit to San Diego.  The planners should not construct unnecessarily obstacles to job growth and future tourism based on perceived fears, rather than legitimate proof of detrimental impact caused by tasting rooms.

City planners need to get out and visit a few tasting rooms to fully understand the clientele and how different a brewery tasting room is from a bar.  I imagine more than one brewery would be happy to arrange a tasting tour.

No comments: