The wine and craft beer industry is booming on the Central Coast.
The Wine Ghetto in Lompoc, breweries and tasting rooms in San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone are among just some of the spots that are a huge hit with both locals and tourists.
But where does Santa Maria fit in? Some feel when it comes to local beer and wine, the city is missing out.
“You look around and there’s tons of giant box stores which are great, but I feel like they’re making it like that’s the only thing they want here and it’s sad for the locals.” Tyler Clark said.
Libertine Brewing Company owner Tyler Clark was denied a permit to open a tasting room at his manufacturing facility in Santa Maria after some neighboring businesses voiced concern.
Golden Bear Winery was also denied a tasting room permit at their existing facility for the same reason.
City planning division manager Peter Gilli says it was a lose-lose situation in both cases, but it prompted the city to come up with a solution.
“We are looking at the southern part of the downtown area which does have a lot of older industrial buildings that could be converted into not just a beer and wine tasting but for production and the whole operation,” Gilli said.
As part of the city’s Downtown Specific Plan, Gilli says they’re looking at an area called the Railroad District bordered in part by Boone Street, Miller Street and College Drive.
The city is currently talking to business owners in that area to see if they would be in favor of beer and wine making facilities and tasting rooms moving in.
“I think since we’re going to take a proactive approach and start talking to those business and property owners in advance hopefully we can ease some of the concerns the businesses at the other locations had,” Gilli said.
“It would be perfect the town really needs that,” Jerry Stinn said.
Jerry Stinn owns Stinn’s Autohaus in the Railroad District where the city is proposing the idea. He leases the old railroad building across from his shop and uses it for an art studio. His vision is to make it a place where local artists can come to work. He fully supports wineries and breweries opening up in the area and thinks the city needs that type of “district”.
“I think it would be great, instead of this small k mart town mentality we need to look at the bigger picture,” Stinn said. “We need to have a place where people want to congregate at nighttime because here in the city when the lights go down people go in.”
“I think it’s one of the missing pieces that we need to get developed,” Glenn Morris said.
The Chamber of Commerce recently launched a tourism campaign expected to cost around 600 thousand dollars, focusing heavily on the wine industry. Chamber President Glenn Morris thinks a tasting district will only help tourism.
“Folks come into the visitors center and are asking where can we do the wine tasting maybe we don’t have the whole weekend, but we have half a day where can we go and we can send them to individual places, but i think if there was a concentrated zone, they would love that,” Morris said.
The city is offering incentives for businesses to open downtown.
Peter Gilli thinks it’s just a matter of months before we’ll start seeing tasting rooms popping up.
“I think everything is pointing in the right direction our job is to make sure the first few can get in as quickly and easily as possible and build that type of district,” Gilli said.
Tyler Clark isn’t so sure the idea will work, but either way he’s no longer interested in having Libertine Brewing Company be a part of it.
“Right now I don’t know a lot of people that want to be in that area and whose going to be the first one and how are you going to grow that for a city to try to force that seems a little reaching,” Clark said. “All of those areas like the funk zone in santa barbara and the wine ghetto in lompoc those spots were just sort of an organic representation, it just kind of turned into those spots. It’s really hard to kind of force that.”