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Petaluma's Taps plans move to waterfront location

Petaluma watering hole Taps is planning to move a few blocks down the street to a new home, the owner said, but it's not clear how soon it can get out of its current lease in Hotel Petaluma.

Owner Eric Lafranchi said he will take over the site of the former Riverside Bistro at 54 E. Washington St., putting his craft beer bar just steps away from brewpub Dempsey's Restaurant and Brewery.

“We're kind of following the automotive dealership model: let's stack all the good stuff together and see what happens,” Lafranchi said.

The new location will be similar to the current location, he said, with about 40 beer taps, up from 35. They will lose the large back room, which can hold nearly 100 people for special events; the new location will have an event space, but only for about 25 people.

The restaurant will, however, gain a large outdoor seating area with a river view, holding as many as 70 seats.

“You've got an outdoor beer garden out there on the river. Who could beat that?” Lafranchi said.

There is, however, one nagging detail holding up Lafranchi's plan: his current lease runs through the middle of 2014.

He said he is hoping to negotiate a way out of the lease, allowing him to open the new location perhaps even as early as the beginning of the year.

But Hotel Petaluma owner Terry Andrews, whose relationship with Lafranchi has been distant, said he has yet to hear from his tenant about the lease. He said he wouldn't necessarily mind having Taps leave the space, but any such discussion would have to be handled through his lawyer.

Andrews bought the property in 2012 and began converting it back to a working hotel. Formerly it had been a rundown, low-rent residential hotel.

Andrews has never explicitly said he would like to see the 4-year-old beer bar go, but he has complained about the noise and crowds it draws.

Andrews and Lafranchi are at odds over who is responsible for replacing a malfunctioning stove hood in the Taps kitchen that has left the restaurant unable to offer its standard lineup of hot pub foods such as burgers and chicken wings. The pub has made do with serving cold items such as salads, sandwiches and snacks since late August.

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