Being first can sometimes have a downside, a lesson the owners of Eagle Rock Brewery believe they’re now learning.
When it opened five years ago, it was the first new brewery to open in Los Angeles in decades and helped pioneer a new generation of craft beer makers in the city. But because it was the first, city zoning officials were extra meticulous in the conditions they included in granting the brewery a five-year conditional use permit.
Among those conditions: the requirement for an extra – and costly – public hearing three years ago.
Now Eagle Rock Brewery’s permit is up for renewal at a Nov. 6 public hearing – the third hearing in five years. With each hearing costing the brewery roughly $8,000, its owners understandably don’t want to have to go through this again for a long time. But they are concerned city zoning officials might decide to renew the permit for only five years.
Brewery co-founder Ting Su believes her company is being singled out just because it was first. She said she’s heard that some newer craft breweries have not had any expiration dates on their permits, while others have longer 10-year terms.
“We are like the oldest kid: We face the strictest rules,” Su said.
Particularly galling for her is that the brewery must pay for a hearing despite drawing virtually no opposition from nearby residents or businesses. There’s been just one protest, filed five years ago by an absentee landlord of a nearby property; no one else since has called for the permit to be revoked.
Indeed, according to assistant city planner Nora Dresser, who works in the zoning administrator’s office, no one has yet filed any protest to the pending permit renewal.
Dresser said her office has not made any recommendation for how long Eagle Rock Brewery’s renewed permit should last. That decision is solely at the discretion of the zoning administrator, she said.
As for whether Eagle Rock Brewery is being singled out with a shorter-term permit, she said terms vary on a case-by-case basis.
“It is difficult to compare the conditions of approval for businesses across the city because those conditions reflect very site-specific issues,” she said in an email to the Business Journal. “The conditions of approval for Eagle Rock Brewery reflect concerns associated with this use at this specific site.”
It’s worth noting that the brewery is close to homes and a middle school. Another local brewery, nearby Golden Road Brewing, is surrounded by other industrial properties.
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