SLO Brew’s plans for live music near airport worry some residents

SLO Brewing Co. co-owner Rodney Cegelski shares plans in February for the brewery’s new production facility/tasting room, The Rock, being built near the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.
SLO Brewing Co. co-owner Rodney Cegelski shares plans in February for the brewery’s new production facility/tasting room, The Rock, being built near the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Some San Luis Obispo residents aren’t concerned about SLO Brewing Co.’s plans to open a brewing production facility and taproom near the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport, according to emails sent recently to city leaders.

But none of the approximately three dozen comments sent in March and April to the San Luis Obispo City Council support the owners’ request to have live entertainment at The Rock, a new facility under construction at 855 Aerovista Place. The council will consider approving a use permit for indoor and outdoor entertainment — technically considered a nightclub use — at its regular meeting Tuesday.

“I am vehemently opposed to this project,” wrote Greg A. Coates, one of the residents who implored the council to deny the permit. The new venue would be less than a half-mile from his home and would “destroy the character of my neighborhood.”

“Currently, Tap It (Brewing Co.) off Santa Fe Road occasionally has live acts outside,” Coates added. “This is a significantly greater distance from my home than the proposed SLO Brew project. Even with the greater distance, I can still hear the live acts at night.”

SLO Brew co-owner Rodney Cegelski shares plans for The Rock, a new brewery production facility, tasting room and restaurant near the SLO County airport. The owners also hope to offer live music — with a concert area that could fit up to 600 people

The new production facility, which will expand SLO Brew’s brewing and bottling capacity, was approved last year and is under construction near Broad Street (Highway 227) in southeastern San Luis Obispo. The new location includes a beer garden and a taproom that will serve casual pub food; no hard alcohol will be served and the facility will close by 11 p.m.

SLO Brew co-owner Hamish Marshall said the term “nightclub” is misleading and doesn’t represent the brewery’s plans, which are to offer indoor concerts in a building that faces away from the residential area, as well as some outdoor music to provide ambiance for the beer garden.

“It’s not like a full blown, bang-out concert that’s playing until 11 p.m. outside,” Marshall said. “It’s still amplified music, but not as loud — you can only fit 100 to 150 people outside, so it’s more for the experience or the ambiance of the tasting room and the restaurant.”

Friday evening events could be held from 6 to 11 p.m. — the later hour is an effort to avoid peak traffic congestion times along Highway 227 — and weekend days from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., with a maximum capacity of 600 people, according to the use permit that will go to the City Council.

There’s a big difference between a one- or two- or three-piece band that’s playing music to create an environment than having a full-blown concert with a major act coming through like Jeff Bridges and his five-piece band.

SLO Brewing Co. co-owner Hamish Marshall

The city’s Planning Commission in February voted 5-2 to recommend the council approve the request to allow live entertainment, which falls under a “nightclub” use in the city’s zoning rules, and weddings or other events.

In a separate vote, the commission recommended the council allow nightclubs in specific areas of the city: the business park zone of the city’s airport area, including areas west of Highway 227 and around Tank Farm Road, and the San Luis Ranch property between Madonna Road and Highway 101. SLO Brew’s new venture, The Rock, falls into that proposal.

On Tuesday, the City Council will first consider amending the Airport Area Specific Plan to allow a nightclub use in that zone.

The Rock site is located more than 800 feet from the nearest residential area. Several planning commissioners said they felt live music was appropriate there, in part because the site is buffered by other buildings in the office park and the nearest homes are on the opposite side of Highway 227.

We feel the noise and traffic will cause a negative effect in our quiet family neighborhoods. We purposely bought our home away from the downtown nightclub and bar environments.

San Luis Obispo residents James and Bonnie Achugbue

But some residents in those homes do not agree, saying events would bring too much noise, traffic, and potentially inebriated concert-goers driving their cars instead of taking a taxi or Uber.

“Traffic is scary,” wrote residents Rob and Joyce Miklik, who live on the opposite side of Highway 227, near French Park. “From our house exiting Fuller (Road) on Broad (Street) toward the airport or exiting Aerovista toward downtown is at best dangerous. This is not coupled yet with an extra 600 people. Then add those 600 people trying to get to a concert with a few that have over-indulged either before or after, and we have a bigger concern.”

Marshall said it was unlikely that many concerts would sell out at 600 people: “It would be great if they were, but you don’t sell out of every concert. Most events are 250 to 300 people,” he said.

“We’re asking for another place where we can do functions,” he added. “That could be a wedding, a concert, a chamber dinner, it’s a lot of different things. It is so far from a nightclub I can’t even tell you.”

Cynthia Lambert: 805-781-7929, @ClambertSLO