Plans for an “artisan marketplace” in downtown San Luis Obispo were approved this week, paving the way for a brewery, restaurant and brewpub, plus retail space in a space long occupied by a furniture store at Broad and Pacific streets.
But the San Luis Obispo Planning Commission’s decision Wednesday to nix part of the plan — to allow wine tasting or any other alcohol in four separate lease spaces along Pacific Street — may prompt applicants Eric and Rodessa Newton to rethink their project.
“We’re just mulling it over,” Rodessa Newton said Thursday. “The conditioning of no wine tasting takes the excitement out of the project.”
The Planning Commission unanimously approved a proposal to convert the building at 1234 Broad St. that currently houses a furniture store, Assistant Planner Erik Berg-Johansen said. Planning Commissioner William Riggs was absent from Wednesday’s meeting.
Wine tasting would still be allowed in one area of the building — a 250-square-foot lease space that faces Broad Street. Rodessa Newton said that spot would most likely feature local merchants, not wine tasting.
The couple could appeal the Planning Commission’s decision to the City Council, but Newton said she and her husband had not yet discussed that option.
The project also drew some concern from a few Save Our Downtown members about the addition of another alcohol-serving business downtown.
The Newtons plan to turn the 9,000-square-foot building into a space with a communal floor plan that features local artisan products and retailers, with indoor and outdoor patios and a fireplace. They intend to cater to professionals in a 30- to 50-year-old demographic and close by 11 p.m.
“Our goal is to have more of a sophisticated clientele that would appreciate fine wine, craft beer and great cuisine that local artisans have to offer,” they wrote in a project-use statement included in their application. The atmosphere, they added, “would not likely draw your typical college crowd.”
The Newtons are currently in escrow to buy the building from current owner Burt Caldwell, who has owned it about eight years with a partner. Rodessa Newton declined to state the purchase price.
According to the San Luis Obispo County Assessor’s Office, it was assessed at about $2.1 million in the 2014-15 tax year.
The project’s design would be considered next by the city’s Architectural Review Commission; the Newtons still have to apply for that hearing.
Save Our Downtown chairman Russ Brown said the project has some positive aspects, such as supporting local small businesses, but the group was concerned about the number of businesses with alcohol licenses.
“We have 63 alcohol outlets, and the city is approving on average five a year,” group secretary Allan Cooper said. “As downtown rents rise in anticipation of more bars moving into downtown, fewer unique, locally-owned, necessity goods and locally-sourced goods stores can afford to locate there.”
In the meantime, the large Broad Street building continues to house Furniture Factory.
Store manager Karan Harrington, whose family owns the San Luis Obispo store and a store in Atascadero, was gearing up Thursday for what she hoped would be a busy holiday weekend.
“We’re still open for business,” she said.