SLO City Council OKs new SLO Brew location

A tug of war between SLO Brewing Co. and the San Luis Obispo City Council ended in a compromise Tuesday night.

SLO Brew wanted to expand to a new location, while the city wanted to control that growth.

With the decision, the 25-year-old restaurant, bar, brewery and music venue can now move from Garden Street to a new location on Higuera Street — but on a much smaller scale than originally sought.

The council voted 4-0 after a nearly four-hour public hearing Tuesday night to allow the move, but it also passed eight pages of conditions that will determine how and when the business can operate.

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

The council also agreed to allow applicant and developer Hamish Marshall to build a rooftop patio that will be used as a dining and gathering area until 11 p.m. — making it the first such patio in the downtown.

Carol Florence, architect of the project, called it a “key element.”

Councilwoman Kathy Smith said she thought of the rooftop patio as a “real plus” to the project, saying she was concerned about the loss of retail stores downtown but hoped future developments would add more shopping.

“I believe change is healthy in the community, and we need to be looking forward instead of accepting the status quo,” Smith said.

In September, the council said it would not condone the rooftop patio because of noise concerns, but the developer reduced the number of people that would be served on the roof to 49 from more than 100 and won the council’s support.

The project came before the City Council in September, after the Planning Commission’s approval of the project was appealed by members of the grassroots group Save Our Downtown over concerns of noise and impacts to the surrounding area.

Marshall and co-owner Todd Newman proposed expanding the brewery to three levels, adding outdoor dining at 726-738 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 concert venue on the second.

That proposal was approved Tuesday but limited the number of people that the restaurant and concert venue will be allowed to serve.

For example, instead of the 600 people originally planned for the concerts on the second floor, only 473 will now be allowed. The number of people in the restaurant and bar downstairs during late night hours was reduced to 338 people from 476.

Instead, a larger kitchen and brewery and lounge area on the first floor, a larger stage on the second floor and a much smaller rooftop patio were approved Tuesday night.

Supporters of the project praised the business for its role in the community and  for bringing a plethora of live entertainment to the city and asked the council to allow it to continue to thrive and grow.

Opponents expressed concerns about adding another bar to the downtown area and the impacts it might have on surrounding retail businesses.

However, a number of local business owners spoke in support of the new location and expansion.

Kevin Main of Kevin Main Jewelers said SLO Brew’s new location would raise the expectations for other bars downtown.

“If we can raise the bar higher, it would pressure others to make them nicer,” Main said.