Santee poised to allow more microbreweries


Bottom’s up, Santee — more microbreweries are heading your way.

The city of nearly 60,000 already has BNS Brewing and Distilling Co. on Wheatlands Avenue, Pacific Islander Beer Company on Argent Street and both Council Brewing Company and Groundswell Brewery and Tasting Company (formerly Manzanita) on Prospect Avenue.

But those are all located in the city’s industrial area.

At a meeting on June 27, the City Council unanimously approved allowing small-scale breweries to open beyond the city’s current industrial confines and into Santee’s general commercial areas, as well.

Allowing them to be out of the industrial zone gives the breweries more visibility, said Michael Coyne, the city’s associate planner.

The craft beer industry continues to grow, Coyne noted. According to the California Craft Brewers Association, a nonprofit trade group that tracks the industry, craft breweries have grown from 200 in 2000 to more than 900 now statewide.

Microbreweries are small beer manufacturers who produce less than 15,000 barrels of beer per year for on- or off-site consumption. They often include a restaurant.

A city report noted that small-scale and service-oriented operations of microbreweries are comparable to those of restaurants and cocktail lounges or bars, which are permitted in Santee’s general commercial zones.

City staff said it expects coming breweries to occupy tenant space in strip malls along Mission Gorge Road.

At the City Council meeting, City Councilman Rob McNelis even named one of the likely candidates — Three Frogs Beer Company.

Three Frogs started five years ago as a back yard hobby by Santee brothers Andy Lloyd and Trevor Anderson and their friend Jerren Zeferjahn. It is expected to be the first microbrewery to take advantage of the ordinance change.

Lloyd, 32, said the trio currently brews less than 200 gallons of beer per year at their home base. When they move into a commercial site, the city said the ordinance will allow them to make up to 15,000 gallons annually.

Lloyd said he hopes to sign a lease for his 1,000-square-foot space across from the old Santee School in the next month or two. He said the space will fit about 40 patrons at a time and there is room for about 15 cars in the on-site parking lot. The brewery will only serve beer. Food trucks are expected to be on-site on a regular basis, he said.

“We’re stoked about the location,” Lloyd said. “Our original plan was for a larger space in the industrial zone, but we felt that a spot in the (general commercial area) would give us more exposure.”

Lloyd said the group still needs to get the go-ahead from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

California ABC licenses microbreweries under a Type 23 Small Beer Manufacturer. Craft brewers average less than 5,800 barrels of production per year, according to the California Craft Brewers Association.

Coyne said the city is taking a “wait and see approach” to see how the microbrewery situation plays out and then come back to the City Council if performance operation standards or any other restrictions are needed.

The City Council has said no so far to restricting the hours of operation or limiting the number of breweries allowed. Santee’s current microbreweries close at 10 p.m. on average.

City Councilman Ronn Hall warned the city about staying away from a look similar to that in Pacific Beach, with blocks of bars and brewpubs.

“I don’t want to end up like PB,” Hall said.

The City Council also directed its staff to look into allowing other alcohol-licensed businesses to open in Santee in the future, including distilleries and wine-tasting rooms

Speaker Zack Gianino said allowing the microbreweries to open in a spot outside the industrial zone is “exactly the type of steps Santee should be making to facilitate city growth.”

McNelis said the ordinance change is something the city needs to stay business-friendly. He said that new breweries would bring myriad jobs to the city, from biotechnology and engineering to bottling, handling and serving.

He said he appreciated that the city was “finding ways to say ‘yes’ rather than looking for ways to say ‘no’ to businesses looking to open in Santee.”