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Port Brewing Co. would like to open a tasting room in the vacant spot next to East Coast Pizza in Cardiff Towne Center. The proposal gained traction as a result of a Planning Commission vote last week. Photo by Jared Whitlock
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Cardiff beer-tasting room takes step forward

ENCINITAS — Beer-tasting rooms are allowed under Cardiff development rules, the Planning Commission determined last week.

A 4-1 vote meant Port Brewing Co. can move forward with an application to open a small tasting room in the community. However, the proposal still has a ways to go before it gets the final green light.

The Cardiff “specific plan” states new wine bars are permitted in the community, but is silent on the matter of beer-tasting rooms. So, the Planning Commission was tasked with deciding whether Port Brewing’s location would be comparable to a wine bar.

“I’m glad North County has woken up and started to realize that beer has become a product similar to wine,” said Port Brewing financial manager Devon Ponds before the vote.

With San Diego being a destination for beer lovers, it’s now a high-end product, Ponds said, noting that Port Brewing sells bottles of beer at prices similar to wine, from $7 to $40.

Port Brewing has a brewery in San Marcos, and the proposed Cardiff tasting room would operate under the same liquor license.

Planning Commissioner Tony Bradenburg said the proposed 1,300-square-foot space would fit few people and have a relaxed atmosphere, making it a tasting room, and not a bar.

“It’s a tasting room, and I think to distinguish between wine and beer … is somewhat silly,” Brandenburg said.

He later added that the Cardiff specific plan doesn’t mention beer bars because they’re a new concept.

“I don’t think it was deliberately omitted,” he said.

Planning Commissioner Glenn O’Grady said he’s a fan of Port Brewing. Nonetheless, those who drafted the planning document likely didn’t intend such a broad interpretation of wine bar, he added.

“It was narrowly defined as a wine bar,” O’Grady said.

He also said that the decision could “open the barn door” to more tasting rooms in Cardiff.

Planning Commissioners emphasized that the vote in no way equates to final approval. The business still has to submit a minor-use permit, a document outlining potential impacts to the community, for future consideration.

Wine Steals, Cardiff’s only wine bar, is located near Cardiff Town Center, where Port Brewing is looking to open. According to the city’s staff report, it’s estimated that the business would get 1,200 visitors a week.

Port Brewing has stated that the location would be similar to Stone Brewing’s tasting room in Oceanside, which doesn’t serve food.

Kristin Lam, representing the Encinitas Citizens Committee, a group that’s sought tougher restrictions on local bars, said the establishment would create parking issues, traffic and contribute to noise problems in the area.

Supporting the tasting room proposal would undo the hard work that went into the Cardiff specific plan, she added.

“Please do not turn around now and support a loophole that would allow more bars into Cardiff,” Lam said.

This article was updated to reflect that Wine Steals is located near Cardiff Town Center, but not inside the shopping complex.