Healdsburg City Council approves wine bar downtown

The wine-centric town of Healdsburg isn't ready to say &‘no' to a new wine bar.

The City Council on Monday unanimously approved a use permit for a proposed wine bar that had been stymied last month by the Planning Commission, which was conflicted over whether there are too many alcohol establishments downtown.

"I can't really find any reason to deny the use," said Councilman Jim Wood, reflecting the sentiment of his colleagues on Monday. "If we want to have a larger discussion on wine tasting and bars, we can have it at a different time."

"I don't see any reason to stop it," said Councilman Gary Plass, who said the application for the Bergamot Alley wine bar conforms with the general plan and won't be detrimental to public safety.

Monday's unanimous show of support was in contrast to last month's deadlocked Planning Commission, where some commissioners expressed concerns that Healdsburg has too many alcohol-related establishments and needs to be known as more than a place to imbibe.

But the backlash appears to be directed more at wine tasting rooms, of which there are 20 in the downtown area, primarily serving tourists.

"There's a sense people get liquored up and go around the Plaza and can hit quite a few, without putting in an effort," said Senior Planner Lynn Goldberg.

And she said there is a perception that wine tasting rooms, which tend to be run by wineries, primarily are there to do marketing and sign up wine club members, but "are not there for the long haul."

Kevin Wardell, the sommelier and winemaker proposing Bergamot Alley, emphasized that his place will be highly distinct. He plans to concentrate on Mediterranean wines and remain open until 2 a.m. to cater to restaurant employees after they get off work.

"In a town of people overtly enthusiastic about wine, there is currently no bar in Healdsburg dedicated to wine and specifically Old World wine," Wardell said.

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