By Kirk Sanderson
A controversial proposal to build a craft distillery and restaurant in Carlsbad’s barrio died in late July 2017 due to a split vote by the Carlsbad City Council.
Councilmembers Cori Schumacher and Mark Packard voted against the plan. Schumacher sided with residents who felt the location – across the street from the Carlsbad Boys & Girls Club – was not suitable. Packard agreed, and as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints he noted, “Everybody knows I don’t support alcohol use.”
Mayor Matt Hall recused himself because he owns the property.
The proposal to build the distillery and restaurant had been put forth by Encinitas resident Nicholas Hammond and was hailed by locals who want to rid the area of auto body shops and tow yards. Sources say with the death of the distillery plan, the building, currently home to a Crossfit gym, will most likely be rented out to another auto-repair facility.
Hammond had asked the Council to make a zone change, already recommended by city staff, that would have allowed him to open a Pacific Coast Spirits and Farmhouse Kitchen on Tyler Street, on one of several parcels owned by Mayor Hall.
After effectively killing the distillery proposal with their split vote, the Council then voted unanimously, 4-0, to ask staff to prepare a zoning amendment that would allow restaurants, but no bars or distilleries, in the area, in the hopes to more seamlessly bridge the mostly residential barrio with the flourishing Village north of Carlsbad Village Drive.
The Carlsbad Planning Commission in June had voted to grant the distillery project a Village Master Plan amendment and sent it to the Council, recommending approval by a 3-2 vote. At that meeting, according to city documents, the Planning Commission heard public testimony from 32 public speakers. Eleven speakers spoke in support of the amendment, and 21 speakers spoke in opposition to the amendment.
Supporters said the area is badly in need of revitalization and a drinking and eating establishment is far better than the car repair and tow yards that currently occupy the neighborhood, on the northwest side of the mostly residential barrio.
But opponents said they feared rowdy behavior from bringing another bar into the area. They also said projects should not be approved until the Village and Barrio Master Plan is in place. Two draft master plans were scrapped due to public protests over increased density and the mandate to “become a town” proposed by the Florida consultancy that prepared them.
A third draft, prepared by local city staff and citizens, was supposed to be issued this summer or fall, but now has reportedly been postponed until early next year, city hall sources say.
Opponents of the distillery project also blasted city staff for recommending approval, accusing them of attempting to curry favor with the mayor.