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Citrus Heights seeks to attract craft breweries; drops permit req

Craft beer, citrus heights breweries, permit
The City of Citrus Heights recently dropped a use-permit requirement for brew pubs locating in commercial areas. Photo courtesy, Uri Tours ( [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Following the growing popularity of craft beer in the region, the City of Citrus Heights is seeking to attract brew pubs to its commercial areas by amending zoning codes and removing a previously required $5,400 regulatory permit for small breweries.

“Brew pubs are the most popular trend to introduce locally brewed beer to a community,” said Citrus Heights Associate Planner Alison Bermudez in a press release issued by the City this month. “We wanted to encourage new and expanding breweries to make Citrus Heights their home and become part of our vibrant community.”

Now only requiring a simple business license from the City in order to open up shop, a brew pub would previously have had to acquire a “use permit” from the City — a three to five month-long process involving a public hearing, planning commission approval, and an approximate $5,400 permit cost, according to City Development Specialist Devon Rodriguez.

Unanimously approved last month by city council members, the amended zoning code now distinguishes “brew pubs” from “bars” by defining them as facilities that produce and serve their own beer on-site, have annual production less than 5,000 barrels, and close no later than 11 p.m. on weekends and 10 p.m. on weekdays. Those meeting this definition now have a right to locate anywhere in the City’s commercial areas and can also serve food — but those seeking later hours or additional production will still need to acquire a use permit, according to a planning division report. Additional licensing from the state and a food permit from the County are also still required.

[Document: Read full zoning code changes from July council meeting agenda]

The code amendment also reclassified “taverns” to be distinct from “bars,” allowing such businesses to open up locations in commercial zones without a use permit as well, as long as they adhere to the same requirements. Taverns are defined similarly to brew pubs, except they do not produce their own beer on site.

City staff said they worked closely with the Citrus Heights Police Department while crafting the changes and said police were supportive, in light of the restricted night-time operating hours and the nature of brew pubs and taverns being gathering places.

The growing demand for craft beer in the region was highlighted by an August MarketWatch report that listed Sacramento as the fifth largest consumer of craft beer in the nation, with local brew representing 33 percent of all beer sold in the city. The number of breweries in California also increased by over 20 percent in 2014, according to planning division staff.

Citrus Heights council members began formal discussion on craft beer regulations at a February 26 study session led by Bermudez, who provided the council with an overview of craft beer, along with trends and statistics related to the industry, according to official minutes from the session.

Previously lacking a clear definition of where a brew pub could locate within the City, the planning division received council approval to review land use and zoning codes in order to offer a more business-friendly environment and allow the City to “capture the proven economic and social benefit” involved. A set of streamlined and simplified regulatory changes were then approved by the planning commission in June and city council in July.

Rodriguez said the process went “very smoothly” and received no public comment or opposition during hearings at the planning commission and city council meetings.

[You may also like: New Citrus Heights retail, restaurants planned for Auburn Blvd]

City staff are currently aware of at least one brewery interested in opening a Citrus Heights location, and a new Alley Katz “craft beer and grill” is expected to open soon in the Citrus Town Center — although it will not be producing its own beer on site, according to Rodriguez.
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