SANTA MARIA, Calif. -

A month after it was approved by the Santa Maria Planning Commission, a proposed winery tasting room will have its ultimate fate decided by City Council.

In July, the commission voted 4-1 to approve a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to Golden Bear Winery, which sought to open a tasting room at its headquarters in the Vintner's Park industrial complex, located near the intersection of Blosser and Betteravia Roads.

Since the industrial complex is not zoned for retail purposes, Golden Bear owners needed to obtain the CUP.

"A wine tasting room is kind of the next step in the wine production," said Teresa Leal, who is in the process of purchasing the winery. "Bringing the retail side to the winery brings a lot of cash flow and capital in order for the business to grow, so without that, you're kind of stuck."

While Golden Bear pushed forward with its plan to open the tasting room, Jonathan Sinor, who owns J.D. Fabrications next door objected, citing numerous safety concerns.

"It's just our poor parking lot structure," said Sinor. "There's really not a loading and unloading zone. Forklifts are going in and out. You've got diesel trucks that can barely make the corners here. There's safety issues if they were to hit. The insurance could possibly go up, but it wasn't our main concern that the insurance would go up, it's more or less a lawsuit that could possibly happen if someone did get injured."

Despite Sinor's objections, planning commissioner's approved the project, noting the owner of the industrial complex is in favor of it.

Sinor claims he wasn't given a fair deal at the meeting, saying important information was not relayed to city officials and was incorrect on printed materials. He also felt the three minutes he was given to speak in front of planning commissioners was inadequate. Afterwards, Sinor was allowed to appeal the decision to City Council.

Heading into the meeting on Tuesday, Sinor is confident this time he'll have an even playing field.

"We feel like we're going to have a fair shake," said Sinor. "Last time, we just talked to one person. This time we have actually gone to the city. We've gone to other members, we've talked to some of the council members."

Golden Bear owners are also hoping for the best as they prepare to speak in front of city leaders for a second time. They emphasize any safety concerns Sinor has will be mitigated.

"My husband and I own an industrial business in Bakersfield," said Leal. "We have a safety department, so we're very familiar with safety and what needs to be done and how things need to be operated safely, and that's why we've sent our winery employees to safety classes, ABC classes, forklift classes, to familiarize themselves."

Should his appeal be denied, Sinor says he will look into the difficult task of relocating his business, which specializes in custom BBQ pits.

"If we had to move a different location, we'd have to start over with advertising," said Sinor. "We'd have to start over with letting people know where we are at. The overhead is a huge deal. The closest that we found to this location is 4,000 square feet, and at that point, it was like $3,100 to $3,200 a month, which is almost double to what we're paying right now."

Leal counters that without the tasting room, Golden Bear business will suffer as well.

"People come to tasting rooms to sample your wine," said Leal. "They're passing through town, they join the wine club and then go on-line and purchase your wine, so they're not real high traffic areas, they're just to get the word out there, so people can taste the wine, because people won't purchase the wine without tasting it."

A month after it was approved by the Santa Maria Planning Commission, a proposed winery tasting room will have its ultimate fate decided by City Council.

In July, the commission voted 4-1 to approve a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to Golden Bear Winery, which sought to open a tasting room at its headquarters in the Vintner's Park industrial complex, located near the intersection of Blosser and Betteravia Roads.

Since the industrial complex is not zoned for retail purposes, Golden Bear owners needed to obtain the CUP.  

"A wine tasting room is kind of the next step in the wine production," said Teresa Leal, who is in the process of purchasing the winery. "Bringing the retail side to the winery brings a lot of cash flow and capital in order for the business to grow, so without that, you're kind of stuck."

While Golden Bear pushed forward with its plan to open the tasting room, Jonathan Sinor, who owns J.D. Fabrications next door objected, citing numerous safety concerns.

"It's just our poor parking lot structure," said Sinor. "There's really not a loading and unloading zone. Forklifts are going in and out. You've got diesel trucks that can barely make the corners here. There's safety issues if they were to hit. The insurance could possibly go up, but it wasn't our main concern that the insurance would go up, it's more or less a lawsuit that could possibly happen if someone did get injured."

Despite Sinor's objections, planning commissioner's approved the project, noting the owner of the industrial complex is in favor of it.

Sinor claims he wasn't given a fair deal at the meeting, saying important information was not relayed to city officials and was incorrect on printed materials. He also felt the three minutes he was given to speak in front of planning commissioners was inadequate. As is city policy, was allowed to appeal the decision to City Council.

Heading into the meeting on Tuesday, Sinor is confident he'll have an even playing field.

"We feel like we're going to have a fair shake," said Sinor. "Last time, we just talked to one person. This time we have actually gone to the city. We've gone to other members, we've talked to some of the council members."

Golden Bear owners are also hoping for the best as they prepare to speak in front of city leaders. They emphasize any safety concerns Sinor has will be mitigated.

"My husband and I own an industrial business in Bakersfield," said Leal. "We have a safety department, so we're very familiar with safety and what needs to be done and how things need to be operated safely, and that's why we've sent our winery employees to safety classes, the ABC classes, forklift classes, to familiarize themselves."

Should his appeal be denied, Sinor says he will look into relocating his business, which specializes in custom BBQ pits.
 
"If we had to move a different location, we'd have to start over with advertising," said Sinor. "We'd have to start over with letting people know where we are at. The overhead is a huge deal. The closest that we found to this location is 4000 square feet, and at that point, it was like $3,100 to $3,200 a month, which is almost double to what we're paying right now."

Leal counters that without the tasting room, Golden Bear business will suffer as well.

"People come to tasting rooms to sample your wine," said Leal. "They're passing through town, they join the wine club and then go on-line and purchase your wine, so they're not real high traffic areas, they're just to get the word out there, so people can taste the wine, because people won't purchase the wine without tasting it."

Santa Maria City Council will discuss and vote on the appeal on Tuesday, Aug. 16, starting at 6:30 p.m.

If Golden Bear receives the green light, Leal hopes to open the tasting room within three weeks, which she feels could help persuade others to follow suit.

"It's very exciting.," said Leal. "To bring something new to the community, so we could bring more winemakers to Santa Maria, and have more tasting rooms."

Santa Maria City Council will make the final decision when it discusses and votes on the appeal on Tuesday, Aug. 16, starting at 6:30 p.m.