Fall Brewing's so called Punk Rock Patio gives the brewery an outdoor venue this summer, thanks to regulatory relief from the ABC.
This is usually the time of year to spotlight San Diego’s best outdoor brewery venues. However, in the summer of 2020, that could be just about anywhere.
Thanks to some late May regulatory relief by the state of California, breweries and bars have an opportunity to expand drink service to outdoor areas, typically within their parking lots or sidewalk spaces. This gives otherwise indoor brewery venues a fighting chance to sell beer on premise while coronavirus restrictions remain in place.
California ABC licenses breweries to serve drinks at a specific location, with explicit boundary lines. Under the new, temporary policy, a brewery (or meadery, cidery, winery, distillery, etc.) may apply to expand the boundaries of that license, “on property that is adjacent” and “under the control of the licensee.”
For some breweries, that means re-purposing their outdoor space. For example, Fall Brewing Company in North Park has used its small, streetside parking lot to host food trucks; now it’s filled the lot with picnic tables and shade structures, and dubbed it the “punk rock patio.”
In Kearny Mesa, Societe Brewing Company has done something similar, but with a larger parking lot. “The extension of premises really helped us get closer to our previous maximum capacity,” notes Societe’s retail manager, Jake Nunes. Pre-covid, Societe could welcome 148 guests in its tasting room. “Our capacity with social distancing guidelines is approximately 100 people,” says Nunes. That’s about 50/50 indoor and outdoor, with “a maximum of 8 people allowed per seating area.”
As recently as June 8, the number of county establishments submitting the $100 application fee required to take advantage of the policy stood at 130 and rising, according to ABC administrator Melissa Ryan. She says there’s a same-day turnaround on application fees, which must include a diagram of the property, with the proposed new boundary lines.
Those lines needn’t be restricted to parking lots, though. Sidewalks, lawns, courtyards, and just about anywhere can be converted to a drinking area, “at the discretion of the Department.”
Ryan notes that the temporary license expansions may include spaces shared with other businesses, or public property, provided they have “legal authority to use the space.”
We’ve already seen some municipalities experiment with closing off streets or sidewalks for expanded restaurant seating, and San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer has proposed a fast-track application process for businesses seeking to do this. Chula Vista Brewery co-founder Tim Parker told me last week that the city of Chula Vista invited his brewery to expand into the sidewalk and metered parking lot spaces immediately outside its storefront. Just like that, the brewery has a front patio.
The expansion won’t mean much to breweries already built around excellent outdoor spaces, such as Amplified AleWorks in Pacific Beach and East Village, the Eppig Brewing Waterfront Biergarten in Shelter Island, or the new rooftop lounge of Bay City Brewing, also in East Village.
However, for very small breweries built in industrial parks, and with limited taproom seating, being able to add square footage outdoors offers a much needed boost, especially this summer, when those willing to leave the house during the pandemic will be seeking outdoor activities most of all. Businesses like Rip Current Brewing and Dos Desperados brewery, in San Marcos; Longship Brewery in Mira Mesa; or Circle 9 Brewing in Kearny Mesa.
“It's really helped my business tremendously,” says Circle 9 cofounder Darren Baker, “Now I can hold a big cornhole tournament.”