ENCINITAS — A large tasting room proposed by Modern Times Brewery in downtown Encinitas is getting the thumbs down from city staff, according to a staff report.
The Encinitas Planning Commission will hold a public hearing July 20 on the proposed 3,000-square-foot project near the intersection of Coast Highway 101 and D Street.
Modern Times operates a large brewery and tasting room in Point Loma and another tasting room in North Park. The Encinitas project calls for 1,980 square feet of bar service area, 106 square feet of retail and the remaining square footage for a bar area, cold storage, restrooms and an office.
But the city’s planning department is recommending the commission deny the project based on concerns raised by Sheriff’s Department about an over-concentration of liquor licenses and calls for service stemming from that area.
According to the staff report, the Sheriff’s Department pointed out that there are 16 liquor licenses for bars and restaurants between Encinitas Boulevard and F Street on Coast Highway 101 alone. That’s nearly half of the 32 licenses in the downtown area alone.
Sheriff’s staff also pointed out that calls for service in the downtown area have spiked between 2016 and now, even as the department has poured additional resources into the downtown area.
“At this point, Beat 221, which is the beat for the proposed Modern Times location, is the largest drain on my resources, but is one of the smallest beats by population,” Sheriff’s Capt. John Maryon said in an email to city staff. “This is due to the large amount of alcohol related problems that already exist in the area. By adding another, similar, alcohol establishment it will only exacerbate the alcohol related problems.”
Modern Times CEO Jacob McKean said he’s talked to Maryon in an effort to convince him that the proposed project would not add to the issues in downtown.
“Again, I understand where they’re coming from, but I do not believe we will make their job harder,” said McKean, who founded Modern Times in 2013. “We have never had a single call for service to either of our locations, and we have outstanding and positive relationships with our local police precincts, residents and neighboring businesses.
“Every single one of our neighbors agrees that we are a positive influence on our surrounding communities,” McKean said. “Unfortunately, I think the sheriff’s view of alcohol establishments in downtown Encinitas has been colored by a few bad actors. If the goal is to shift the culture of downtown Encinitas in a positive direction, then the only way to do that is to bring in responsible operators like us who are committed to being responsible, positive contributors to the community.”
The Modern Times proposal has polarized the community. At a March community meeting, many proponents urged the city to approve the project, calling it an asset to the community. Many of the supporters believed a tasting room would not bring the alcohol-related issues with which the Sheriff’s Department is concerned.
Opponents of the project said the city did not need another alcohol-serving establishment, and said one of this size would continue to erode the character of the city’s downtown.
McKean said that Maryon had said that the department would not oppose the proposal if it were located outside of downtown, but McKean said that would go against the company’s mantra of environmental sustainability.
“I do not believe locating an alcohol business in an entirely car-dependent location —rather than a block away from the Coaster — would make the community safer,” McKean said. “Environmental sustainability is also one of our core values, so we do not believe that forcing businesses out of walkable, bike-able, mass transit-oriented locations is a sustainable or healthy solution.”