The density of wine-tasting rooms in Carmel-by-the-Sea is so high that when considering the appeal of a permit, City Attorney Don Freeman and City Councilman Ken Talmage both had to recuse themselves because the proposed tasting room is within 500 feet of their offices.
But that one decision – a pending appeal by winemaker Dan Tudor to open a small tasting enterprise – is part of a larger policy conversation in Carmel. At issue are the terms “wine bar” and “wine tasting room,” which have different definitions, according to the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
But the policy also affects something intangible: the city’s night life. The Carmel Residents Association views a recent proliferation of wine tasting rooms – five applications have been made in 2014 alone – as the city catering to tourists over residents.
“[Visitors] already have all the nightclubs, shopping malls and bars they could possibly want,” says CRA President Barbara Livingston. “They’re coming here for a quiet, romantic getaway.”
Councilmembers voted 5-0 April 1 on a 45-day moratorium on all pending applications for new wine tasting rooms. They’re considering extending that moratorium at their May 6 meeting. The idea is to give an ad hoc committee on the Planning Commission time to hash out guidance for how many wine tasting rooms and wine bars are appropriate.
Steve Dallas served on that committee until he was elected to City Council on April 8. A replacement member will be appointed at the May 15 Planning Commission meeting.