SLO City Council aims to limit growth of SLO Brew

The back of the site of SLO Brewing Co.’s proposed expansion butts up to San Luis Obispo Creek.
The back of the site of SLO Brewing Co.’s proposed expansion butts up to San Luis Obispo Creek. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

SLO Brewing Co. will have to scale down its ambitions in order to appease the City Council’s concerns about its proposed move to Higuera Street.

The council voted 4-0 Tuesday night to take up the discussion of the proposed move from Garden Street to Higuera Street on Nov. 20, and members asked city staff to craft a number of conditions limiting how SLO Brewing Co. does business.

Councilman Dan Carpenter recused himself from the discussion because he owns property nearby.

SLO Brewing Co. wants to serve more people in its restaurant and expand its capacity for concerts.

Specifically, co-owners Hamish Marshall and Todd Newman proposed to expand the brewery to three levels, adding outdoor dining at 736-738 Higuera St., along San Luis Obispo Creek and on the roof. The two-story 15,000- square-foot building, known as the Carissa Building, would include a restaurant, bar and brewery on the first floor and a 3,000-square-foot concert venue on the second. A patio and small bar were proposed for the roof.

Newman told the council that increasing the concert capacity would allow the venue to attract a higher-caliber lineup of musicians.

However, council members bristled at the idea of approving a floor plan that would allow for up to 143 more people for concerts and 192 in the restaurant bar area at peak times compared to the company’s current location on Garden Street.

Councilwoman Kathy Smith said allowing the higher capacity would make the business “destined to create downtown issues.”

Marshall said Wednesday he remains committed to the project and is confident a middle ground will be reached.

“What happened (at the City Council meeting) was sort of like a back-handed approval,” Marshall said. “The council is willing to give some but not all of what we are asking for. They are willing to let us grow from where we are today but want to be very cautious of how much. Change is difficult, and it is very difficult for this town.”

He said he is not necessarily unhappy about the council’s stipulations but is frustrated with the delay. The project, which was approved unanimously by the city’s Planning Commission in July, went before the council because it was appealed.

“I’m frustrated that it’s not done and I can’t move on,” Marshall said. “Now we have to go through more hoops and come back to the City Council. It is all of those things that cost money.”

SLO Brewing Co. is seeking the relocation because its existing site will become a restaurant and bar for a hotel that was approved as part of the mixed-use Garden Street Terraces project.

If the move is not approved, SLO Brewing Co. would disappear, Hamish said.

“That would be a huge loss to the city and cause massive community outrage,” he said.

The council also expressed concerns about the impacts to the nearby San Luis Obispo Creek with the additional people in the area.

Ideas of mitigating that include mandating the patrons’ queue along Higuera Street, not behind the business as originally planned.

The council also said it would not condone a rooftop patio because of potential noise disturbances.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.