Last night the Torrance Planning Commission met and one of the items on the agenda was to hear a report prepared by the Community Development Department which was to discuss the current state of the craft breweries in Torrance. The report included discussion on what the current procedures are to open a brewery, what the Torrance Municipal Code says about breweries in Torrance, why so many breweries are opting to open in Torrance and what affect the influx of breweries has had on the crime rate in Torrance. In the audience I saw Laurie Porter from Smog City Brewing, Henry Nguyen from Monkish Brewing, and Joel Elliott from Strand Brewing Company.
For a little background, I ask you to recall back in August when I attended the CUP Hearing for Scholb Premium Ales. At that time, the Torrance City Attorney mentioned that there might be a way to streamline the modification process for Conditional Use Permits that would eliminate the need for a hearing every time someone wanted a simple modification of their existing Conditional Use Permit. The Planning Commission agreed that if the modification of an existing CUP was not changing the intent of the permit issued the modification hearing should not be required. What this means is that if Scholb, or Smog City or any of the other Torrance breweries want to modify their Conditional Use Permit as far as their hours of operation they could save time and expense by having the Planning Department modify their permit without having to appear before the Planning Commission. Continue reading
I soon met with the Schulz and Kolb families where I learned how the name “Scholb” came to be (a combination of the two families last names) and a little about their history and the style of beers that would be brewed. It was then that I was also invited to attend and speak at their upcoming CUP Hearing with the Torrance Planning Commission. Last night the planning commission met and Conditional Use Permit, CUP15-00012 was granted.
Essentially they were granted the ability to brew beer and do retail sales via the tasting room, have food trucks and they can be open five days a week; Wednesday and Thursday from 3:00 to 9:00 PM, Friday and Saturday from 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM and noon until 6:00 PM on Sundays. They were also granted the ability to be open on New Year’s Eve and the night before Federal holidays. Continue reading
When Absolution Brewing Company appeared before the Planning Commission in November of 2013, the standard operating hours of the existing Torrance tasting rooms were pretty much Thursday through Sunday, with the hours of 4:00-9:00 PM on Thursday and Friday; noon until 9:00 on Saturdays and noon until 6:00 PM on Sundays. When Absolution submitted for their Conditional Use Permit they requested that they be allowed to be open from 3:00 until 9:00 PM on Wednesday and Thursday; 11:00 AM until 9:00 PM on Friday and Saturday and noon until 6:00 PM on Sunday. I remember wondering whether or not Absolution would be able to justify being open that many hours a week; it is one thing to have permission from the city, but it is another to have enough of a demand to make it worthwhile to be open that long. Well, time has proven that they can justify being open on the additional days and some of the other Torrance breweries have followed their lead and are now open on Wednesday’s as well. Recently, Strand Brewing Company and Monkish Brewing Company have appeared before the Planning Commission and were given permission to hold private events on Mondays and Tuesdays; Absolution decided to take it a step further and request that they be allowed to be open on Monday through Thursday from 3:00-10:00 PM; Friday and Saturday 10:00 AM until 10:00 PM and noon until 10:00 PM on Sunday.
Although the Planning Department was not entirely in favor of allowing Absolution the ability to be open on Monday and Tuesday, primarily because it had not been done before in Torrance, after hearing arguments in favor of allowing the extended hours, the Planning Commission allowed the extended hours as requested along with the ability to have food trucks and to hold special events. Continue reading
Monkish Brewing Company was the first production brewery in Torrance to get a Conditional Use Permit to open a tasting room, even though Strand Brewing opened a couple weeks before them. Back in 2011 when Monkish first appeared before the Planning Commission the craft beer landscape was significantly different in the South Bay than what we have today. There was Monkish and Strand in Torrance with El Segundo Brewing in El Segundo. As it was a new scene and no one really knew if craft beer was going to take hold this time (it tried 15-20 years ago with little success); in fact, when Monkish first requested to open the tasting room it was described as a “small accessory” to the brewery itself. As a consumer, I kind of figured that the three brewery owners got together and said, “Let’s open Thursday through Sunday and see what happens.”
Well, the times have changed; Torrance is now a craft beer destination. Instead of having two production breweries and one brewpub (Red Car) in Torrance, we now have five production breweries with a second brewpub (HopSaint) scheduled to open within the next two months. With the addition of each new production brewery and tasting room has come the request for longer hours and the ability to have food trucks. When Strand Brewing Company got the Conditional Use Permit for their new location, they made sure to request the ability to have longer hours and food trucks. Last night’s approval essentially leveled the playing field for Monkish Brewing giving them the ability to be open essentially seven days a week including special events. Continue reading
Joel Elliott presented the request to the Planning Commission and addressed an email correspondence from one Torrance citizen that was very animate that she was against the idea of a “bar” moving into the neighborhood with its noisy drunks wandering into people’s homes by mistake. He agreed that if this was the case he would not want it either; but anyone that goes to Strand Brewing Company or any local tasting room, knows this is not the case. Fortunately, there were six letters in favor of approval from neighboring businesses, customers, a charitable organization and a mix of all of the above. In addition, there must have been 10-15 supporters in the audience, four of us who spoke in favor of approval including Monkish Brewery owner, Henry Nguyen. Smog City Brewing owner Porter was in the audience in support of Elliott and Marcello’s request.
After I gave my prepared speech, Planning Commission Chair Steven Polcari mentioned that three or four had been sitting on the commission when Strand Brewing first applied almost six years ago. It was Commissioner Steve Skoll that asked the question everyone in the room wanted to know; “When are you opening?” Elliott said that he hoped for the end of May 2015, to which Skoll said he would tell everyone June. Elliott smiled and thanked him. The Conditional Use Permit was approved unanimously. Continue reading