By Kirk Sanderson
Controversy is once again brewing in Carlsbad, this time over plans to build a small craft distillery and restaurant in Carlsbad’s barrio – right across the street from the Carlsbad Boys & Girls Club.
Supporters say 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 critics fear rowdy behavior from bringing another bar into the mix, citing a recent stabbing in the parking lot of the nearby Pizza Port and the proposed site’s proximity to the Boys & Girls Club. They also say 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.
The Carlsbad Planning Commission in June voted to grant the distillery project – known as Pacific Coast Spirits – a Village Master Plan amendment, the first step in what could be a lengthy approval process.
The vote was advisory, however, with the commission merely recommending City Council approval. Even then, the vote was split, 3-2.
Further complicating the issue is the fact that the property, on Tyler Street, that is being proposed for the distillery-restaurant is owned by Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall. It is located next to a tow yard and currently houses a CrossFit gym.
The distillery would feature “grain-to-glass” production combined with a “farm-to-table, family-friendly” restaurant, consumer education programs, and charitable contributions to the community, developer Nicholas Hammond told the Planning Commission.
During the public comment session, about half the speakers were in favor of the project – including a representative of the Boys & Girls Club – while the other half were opposed.
On social media, meanwhile, the debate has gotten increasingly heated. On the Carlsbad Village Preservation Society Facebook page, one critic wrote, “Not good. Appeared to be a very political decision with no consideration for the people who live there. Silver lining: any councilperson who votes for a distillery next to Boys and Girls Club will be reminded of that in 2018.”
On the CarlsbadCares Facebook page, one supporter wrote, “I enjoy single malt Scotch. Do you know how expensive that is? It is sipped and savored, not gulped down. When you order a good Scotch in a restaurant or bar, it is at least $10 and up to $50 or more for two ounces! Craft liquors are not the kind of stuff people gulp down to get drunk.”
In response, one critic wrote, “And that’s worth it to jeopardize a youth that can be influenced? That’s like putting a match company next to a fireworks wherehouse (sic). Don’t you think Carlsbad has enough bars [and] wine-tasting joints around? Maybe not drink – then you would have no issues. It’s all vanity. Put it somewhere else if you have to have it that bad. That’s not an appropriate location…. Stupid, greedy people who don’t care about kids.”
Another poster wrote, “Sad news for Carlsbad and the Barrio. The Planning Commission voted 3-2 to change the land use for the entire area … to allow distilleries/restaurants. The city continues to encroach on the residential areas. Soon the barrio may just be a place in time and memory. The oldest neighborhood in Carlsbad is being turned over to outside interests with the help of the mayor and his supporters in his administration for money. I will refuse to patronize or support any business that supports Matt Hall or Hammond & Co. When these people make claims of how they wish to be a part of the community, do not believe them! For my part I want nothing to do with the Carlsbad Village Plan. Remove the barrio from this plan. It does nothing positive or beneficial for the community, except ignore their opinions.”