National City aims to attract breweries, tasting rooms


In an effort to stimulate a craft beer scene in National City, the City Council recently took steps to make it easier for breweries and tasting rooms to open up across the city.

Council members voted unanimously to allow small breweries and tasting rooms in industrial and mixed-use zones. The move means these types of establishments no longer need to obtain a conditional-use permit, a process business leaders described as lengthy and costly.

Instead, small breweries and tasting rooms that comply with the zoning standards will be approved without a discretionary review process.

Large breweries, defined by the city as ones that produce more than 60,000 barrels a year, must still obtain a conditional-use permit and are allowed only in industrial zones.

In a statement, Councilwoman Alejandra Sotelo-Solis called the City Council’s actions a “huge victory for National City and the South Bay craft beer movement.”

Jacqueline Reynoso, CEO of the National City Chamber of Commerce, said the new rules will provide new breweries and tasting rooms security in that the projects are set to be approved once they meet the zoning requirements.

Then there’s the money saved without the need for a conditional-use permit.

“The cost of doing business has been significantly reduced,” Reynoso said. “For any business person, that’s certainly attractive.”

In recent years, the city has broadly embraced the idea of welcoming breweries and similar establishments to create a vibrant environment.

A craft beer scene is part of a larger picture for National City, an increasingly attractive destination for young crowds and developers alike, Reynoso said.

“It’s not just a matter of building a sector of the economy that can really help the city,” Reynoso said. “It’s a matter of continuing to build a city that attracts the creative energy and optimism of young professionals and lets them know they have an important stake in the city’s future.”

In their desire to create a craft beer scene, city leaders and business stakeholders have eyed the thriving breweries and tasting rooms on Third Avenue in downtown Chula Vista.

Luanne Hulsizer, executive director of the Third Avenue Village Association, a coalition of businesses in downtown Chula Vista, said the breweries and tasting rooms in the area — five in total — have attracted an “influx” of patrons and new businesses, including restaurants.

“It’s just really great to see the activity that comes along,” especially after 5 p.m. and on weekends, Hulsizer said.

Reynoso said National City offers breweries and tasting rooms a “new and bright market … that is not already inundated.”

Two breweries already are in the process of opening what are set to become the first tasting rooms in National City. The City Council gave Embarcadero Brewing Co. and Novo Brazil the green light in 2016.

Owners of the two breweries, both of which have obtained a conditional-use permit, applauded the City Council’s actions.

“The process to approve the permits for our tasting rooms was intense and expensive for Embarcadero Brewing Company,” owner Jorge Molina said in a statement. “Allowing breweries by-right in industrial and mized-use zones will save small business like ours thousands of dollars and several hours for both entrepreneurs and city planning staff.”

Under the ordinance and resolution the City Council approved last month:

  • Small breweries, defined by the city as ones that produce 60,000 barrels or less yearly, are allowed in industrial and mixed-use zones.
  • Large breweries, defined as ones that produce more than 60,000 barrels a year, are allowed in industrial zones and must obtain a conditional-use permit.
  • Tasting rooms are allowed in industrial and mixed-use zones.
  • Tasting rooms are not required to adhere to a distance-to-schools requirement, which forces establishments that sell alcoholic beverages to be at least 660 feet away from schools.
  • Tasting rooms are not required to adhere to a requirement that alcohol be available only with the purchase of food and that alcohol sales exceed food sales.