Healdsburg won't cap wine-tasting rooms

There may be more wine tasting rooms in downtown Healdsburg than some people want, but the City Council decided Tuesday not to impose new restrictions on them.

"I think there's an over-concentration of wine tasting rooms in the community. Does it mean I want to change it? No," said Councilman Jim Wood. "The market ebb and flow will take care of it."

Like the majority of his fellow council members, Wood decided that the informal guideline of allowing one tasting room or bar per block is working and the city should not regulate such establishments in the name of retail diversity.

On a 4-1 vote, Councilman Steve Babb dissenting, the council agreed to leave things as they are.

"I'd rather see tasting rooms than an empty storefront," said Councilwoman Susan Jones, who said the market should dictate the types of business that go in downtown.

As the former police chief, she noted there were few if any problems associated with the tasting rooms. Tourists would tell her they appreciated the ability to walk from one to the other and not have to worry about driving under the influence.

There currently are 20 wine tasting rooms downtown and continuing interest in establishing more. There are also 10 existing and approved wine and full service bars in the downtown in addition to a couple dozen restaurants, most of which serve alcohol.

The Planning Commission last month deadlocked 3-3 on an application for the "Bergamot Alley" wine bar, fearing an oversaturation on one block of Healdsburg Avenue. But the City Council approved it after the applicant argued it would serve unusual wines and be the only such place open late to cater to restaurant employees after they get off work.

Tuesday's joint meeting with the planning commission was intended to determine whether the city's policy needs to be changed or if tasting rooms should be restricted or be required to be a minimum distance apart.

Some planning commissioners said they have heard from residents concerned that Healdsburg has gone overboard.

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