Over the Hill

On the brew-haha over a card room in Paso Robles

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx

A co-founder of a Paso Robles brewery recently complained to the City Council that a proposed card room would degrade his brewery’s neighborhood. That seemed to me like a car’s bug-spattered headlights calling the windshield dirty. Either one can lead people astray.

The council was considering a zoning change to allow a card room to open in the brewery’s vicinity. The council voted 4-1 to deny the rezoning. The brewery is Firestone Walker Brewing Co., and Adam Firestone was its spokesman.

The brewery was founded in 1996. It prospered and expanded. It now occupies a large area in what I call Paso Robles’ “appendix.” Look at a map of Paso Robles; you’ll see a narrow “appendix” hanging down from the rest of the city. It hugs Highway 101 and contains major commercial developments.

One of the brewery’s buildings is the tallest in the “appendix.” You can’t miss it on the east side of Highway 101, north of Highway 46 West. It’s on the frontage road called Ramada Drive, and it faces the freeway.

The card room that almost moved to Ramada Drive is the Paso Robles Casino, now on Black Oak Drive. Its owners wanted to buy the Knight’s Carpets & Interiors building on the west side of Ramada Drive a little distance south of the brewery. They planned to convert it into a card room, sports bar and eating place.

But Firestone told the City Council that the area is one of the city’s gateways and should be protected from inappropriate businesses. He feared a card room would negatively impact its tone. But he also had submitted a backup offer of $1.2 million for the Knights’ property on June 19, before the council voted on the zoning change. He did not disclose this to the council. (A spokesman said there’s no present plan for the Knights’ property should the brewery acquire it.)

His offer aside, I wonder how much of a gateway this area is. Ramada Drive doesn’t enter any gate. It dead ends a mile south of First Street.

Yes, the back of the proposed card room is close to the freeway, but there is some foliage back there. Knight’s Carpets & Interiors has a sign back there, but I never noticed it until now.

Other neighbors also spoke at the council meeting. But no one spoke on behalf of Mid State Baptist Church. I wonder what they thought. I left a couple of phone messages but got no response.

Not everyone opposed the rezoning. The city Planning Commission unanimously recommended it. And Councilman Fred Strong was the independent-thinking council member who favored it.

I should also mention that poker has always been legal in California, but beer was illegal 81 years ago. Beer and other booze were illegal in California and every other state from 1920 through 1933 during Prohibition.