Tonight I attended the Albany City Council meeting. On the agenda was a conditional use permit for a beer pub and package store on San Pablo Avenue.
Notice I did NOT say brew pub. It has been called that for months now in the media and documents, which drives me nuts. A brew pub is where they brew their own beer onsite. a beer pub is where they bring in kegs from others to serve. A package store is where you can buy bottles of beer to take home, just like you do from a liquor store or even Safeway these days.
Staff people gave their recommendations first and one of the comical things was that she said it was "beer to go" which the mayor had to ask what type of container it left in. I honestly think some of the city council thought it was being taken out of the store in 7-11 style go cups. No people, we don't live in Louisiana, home of the drive through daiquiri stands.
After Staff gave their recommendations, the owner of the property and the proposed businesses gave their quick presentations. Basically, they want to open a store like Beer Revolution (Oakland) or City Beer (San Francisco) where you can get upscale micros and European beers on tap, or purchase bottles to either take home, or consume on premise after paying a corkage fee. Apparently, their type of BATF license applied for will require them to serve light food along with the beer, which is a positive that Beer Rev and City Beer currently don't offer (although Beer Rev will allow places to deliver food for you!!).
The public comment period was interesting. All the people that went first were those that were against the pub/store. It was only after the half dozen, or so, people went, that the proponents of the establishment went. I had planned to wait to go very last because I had prepared my comments and wanted them to be be the last things the council heard. However, I was a couple from the last.
Everything had been timed so that I would fit into my three minutes of time (barely). Unfortunately, part of the way through I screwed up and the remaining two minutes were paraphrasing and adlib, which didn't come out nearly as good. (Lord knows I missed that teleprompter from my days at the University of Montana Radio-TV school!!).
Here are my comments, as prepared prior to the City Council Meeting:
Here we are again at the City Council with an appeal for the pub and package store on San Pablo Avenue. This has been before Planning and Zoning twice, and now the City Council twice. Hopefully, the situation gets resolved with tonight's meeting.
We have heard MANY MANY references to people stumbling to their cars and puking outside. Public urination and sex. This sounds more like an episode of The Simpsons set at Moe's Bar, than at a package store like what is being proposed. People are wanting the city to assure there will be no drug usage or public sex in parked cars in the area. That can probably be more easily assured on a major street like San Pablo than on a quiet secluded neighborhood such as Madison or Adams Streets.
The same people also keep bringing up the Hotsy Totsy, Club Mallard, the Ivy Room and Albany Bowl. Albany Bowl caters to youth and has absolutely part being in this conversation. As for the others mentioned, no disrespect meant, but that's like comparing Denny's to a Four Star restaurant. Those places are Depression Era bars that serve hard alcohol and cheap beer. If you want to compare the pub and package store to another locale in Albany I'd suggest looking at Solano Cellars with its upscale wine offerings from around the World. However, comparing Apples to Apples, I'd like to use Beer Revolution in Oakland as an example.
Beer Revolution also has high end domestic and imported craft brew available in bottles. Additionally, specialty beer is available on draft, which averages between $5 and $8 per 10 ounce pour.
Some people complain there are too many liquor stores in Albany. That's a red herring as if you look at the beer selection being offered at any of the liquor stores you're hard pressed to find any type of selection that comes anywhere close to what is being proposed. The closest competitor would be Beverages and More. However, there is very little crossover in selection if you compare what they offer to that of the new package store proposed.
There has been complaints about the parking waiver requested. I have to ask where was Planning and Zoning, and the City Council when that building was built? Whether it was three separate businesses, or one large business, it would still have zero off-street parking meaning no matter what business moved in they would have to apply for a waiver.
Regarding the litter and noise question. Look at places like Beer Revolution and Triple Rock, which is in Berkeley. While there may be considerable noise INSIDE the buildings, you are hard pressed to notice it from the street. Beer Revolution may appear to have unacceptable noise, but that's only because it has a large patio area that's used in the evening, such as what the Club Mallard has. There is no patio involved with the proposed pub and package store. As for litter, both places are clean outside despite being in Jack London Square and on Shattuck Avenue.
The applicants wanted to be open till Midnight on Friday and Saturday, while the police have recommended 10pm. I suggest a happy medium of 11pm, such as what city Staff have suggested. However, I would also suggest the hamburger side of the business should be able to stay open longer.
In closing I ask that the application be finally granted, and then the situation can be reviewed after one year.
After all was said and done, the City Council decided to approve the conditional use permit, allowing the business to stay open until 10pm Su-Th, and 11p Fr-Sa, with a review in front of the City Council six months after they open their doors. The opponents have now threatened to oppose the license at the licensing level. The inane part of this is it's apparently all over their staying open one extra hour on Fridays and Saturdays. We're not talking until 2am, like the bars in town do because they've been around so long.
Knock on wood, the new Albany Bottle Shop and pub will be open for business by the Fall.
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You can watch a replay of the City Council meeting at http://www.albanyca.org/index.aspx?page=462
It should be posted sometime tomorrow, hopefully.