WATSONVILLE — The Watsonville City Council agreed Tuesday to allow up to five brewpubs in commercial areas, paving the way for what some are calling a new type of social gathering space in the city.
The council voted unanimously in favor of adding brewpubs to the city’s municipal code, although it struggled to agree upon the number of licenses allowed.
After deliberation, the council agreed to allow the brewpubs to stay open until 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 p.m. Friday through Saturday. It also extended the originally proposed 10-year time limit for the use permits to 20 years.
According to Principal Planner Justin Meek, brewpubs, also known as micro-breweries, have risen in popularity over the past 15 years, and are a way cities have revitalized shopping centers.
Recently, brewpub owners have expressed interest in opening locations in Watsonville, according to Meek. Two are currently under construction: Beer Mule on Aviation Way and Fruition Brewing in the East Lake Village Shopping Center.
City staff originally recommended the brewpubs close at 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 10:30 p.m. Friday through Saturday, while setting the limit of the conditional use permit at 10 years.
But brewpub owners and property managers expressed concern over the proposal, saying that 10 years is not adequate for the amount of investment that is required to operate the establishments.
Kym DeWitt, who is one of the owners of the under-construction Beer Mule, urged the council to extend the permit time to 20 years, as did many other members of the public during the meeting.
“These small businesses need our support,” she said. “They need help getting open. Limiting the length of time of the use permit hurts them.”
Chris Codiga of Oaktree Property Company, which manages the East Lake Village Shopping Center, said brewpubs give the community a “low risk” place to gather.
“It’s local jobs and local business owners,” he said. “It’s sales tax for the city.”
Added local organic farmer Javier Zamora: “We are tired of having just Corona or Budweiser.”
According to Watsonville Police Chief David Honda, over the last six months, the two brewpubs currently operating in Watsonville, Elkhorn Slough Brewing Company and Corralitos Brewing Company, have had zero calls for police service in the last six months.
Over the same time period, in Santa Cruz, which has 12 establishments, there was one call for service, according to Honda.
Councilman Felipe Hernandez made a motion to increase the number of brewpubs to 10, but Councilmembers Nancy Bilicich, Jimmy Dutra, Rebecca Garcia and Aurelio Gonzalez voted against it, saying they wanted the number capped at five.
After Councilwoman Trina Coffman-Gomez’s suggestion to “split the difference” at seven brewpubs was not supported, her revised motion of five received unanimous support.