SLO Brewing Co. can host concerts at its new facility near the county airport, but the city’s approval comes with limitations: Shows must be held indoors, the venue doors must be closed during events, and any ambient music in an outdoor courtyard has to be turned off at 9 p.m.
The San Luis Obispo City Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday, with Councilman John Ashbaugh dissenting, to approve a use permit for a “nightclub” at The Rock, SLO Brew’s new brewery and taproom at 855 Aerovista Place near the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.
“I think that our community has a serious lack of this type of amenity,” Councilman Dan Rivoire said. “I think that folks are looking for the type of music experience that they really can’t find anywhere in this county.”
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-owners Hamish Marshall and Rodney Cegelski also requested a use permit and amendment to the city’s zoning rules to allow a nightclub use — which covers facilities providing live entertainment — so they could host concerts, weddings and other events with a maximum of 600 people.
The brewery’s downtown nightclub and restaurant closed its longtime Garden Street location in December and is moving around the corner to 736 Higuera St. The capacity for concerts there will be smaller — about 300 people, compared with the former location’s 437 people — and the brewery’s owners hope to enhance their music offerings with The Rock.
“It absolutely is an adjunct to the brewery and taproom,” Marshall said of the live music request at The Rock. “It is not part of our main business day-to-day.”
But the plan worried some residents who live across Broad Street from the Aerovista Business Park, where The Rock is located.
“My big concern is the noise issue,” said Bonnie McKim. “It’s not only the music, it’s the bass of the music. The bass beat not only travels as noise, it travels as vibration. You might not even be hearing the music in full but you know it’s there because of the thumping.”
Carolyn Smith, representing grassroots organization Residents for Quality Neighborhoods, said the neighborhoods east of Broad Street and south of Tank Farm Road, including the Arbors, have the least number of noise complaints of any area in San Luis Obispo.
“If you approve this venue with the amplified music, that will change,” she said, suggesting the council reduce the number of patrons, disallow amplified music and require that the doors to the 3,200-square-foot indoor concert space be closed. (The council didn’t reduce the 600-person capacity but did add a condition requiring doors be closed during events.)
Marshall also offered to change his hours of operation on Friday evenings so concerts couldn’t start until 7:30 p.m. They would still end at 11 p.m. Events can be held weekend days from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Supporters said the owners have made changes to their plans to accommodate the neighbors’ concerns and said the music venue would enhance the area along with the brewery and restaurant.
“It will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood — just to have a place to go after work to have great craft beer and to see a concert,” nearby resident Brian Kerr said. “We’re flanked by the trains on one side and the airport and Broad (Street) on the other. The sound from a concert pales in comparison to a jet landing across the street.”
Resident Lisa McCann said the concert venue would draw tourism dollars from the surrounding area and give people a chance to “enjoy music at more affordable prices than some of the surrounding venues.”
Ashbaugh said he was concerned the concert venue wouldn’t be compatible with the business park where The Rock is located, and worried about “spot zoning” that could lead to other requests for nightclubs in business parks. He suggested the council continue the discussion to another meeting, but his colleagues didn’t agree and voted to let SLO Brew move ahead.