This is some crazy stuff. We had starting to feel like we had inadvertently shut down all of the tasting rooms in San Diego last week - and maybe we did... Here's the story: When Mike got the 23 license from the State, our ABC rep said, "now go talk to the Department of Health." How were we to know that none of the breweries in San Diego operating tasting rooms had filed a plan with the Department of Health?
On Monday, after we met with the DEH (as our Facebook, Twitter and Blog followers know) we left there feeling that we were being held to a higher standard than all the other breweries we've ever visited - for Hess Brewing, the DEH wanted us to install SEVEN SINKS, self-coving floor tiles, floor drains, 8-10 foot high ceilings above all sinks and taps... it seemed quite ridiculous...
The Waiting Room - SD DEHWell apparently on Tuesday they realized "Hey, we are not regulating ANY of the breweries in San Diego" and decided to go to both The Lost Abbey and AleSmith to hit them with Cease and Desist Orders until they could file a plan and get up to "code" (which included some nice fees, too!) On Friday, we got the news of the raids when The Full Pint reported that they had been informed that The Lost Abbey was shut down. Soon after this Tomme posted an excellent rant, which was unknowingly probably directed at us (even though we did not report any breweries; the fact we WENT to the Department of Health had the unfortunate consequence of letting them know that other breweries were not getting their plans checked through them). As you can imagine... we were crushed when his post hit. Later on in the day, AleSmith's Facebook page said that they too had been served with a C&D Order.
So now, besides realizing that Mike just didn't have the capital to come up to code to meet these overstepping and egregious requirements and were likely going to forego the tasting room, we realized we may have hosed our fellow San Diego craft brewers and drinkers. Unintentionally I remind you!
But now, we have some GREAT NEWS!!!!
Today, Mike spoke with State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher's office, 75th District, to talk to him about getting an exemption for beer tasting rooms, just like wineries apparently are. His office thought it was an excellent idea and wanted to explore further writing up legislation to introduce at the beginning of 2011.
Not an hour later, just about 2:50 this afternoon, Mike got the best call - and most unexpected - he could have hoped for from the Dept of Health. Our new bestie, Jackie at the Department of Health called to say that because of the ruckus that we raised over the past three months and last week's activities (the raids and push back from the craft community) that she took it to the State for ruling. Can you believe this? The result? The county no longer regulates or has jurisdiction over beer tasting rooms in the county! This means we do not need the floor sink, three-tiered ware washing sinks and all the other CRAZY stuff we would have had to install to open up as a tasting room.
So to quote one of my favorite movies of all time which I feel is completely appropriate: "Just when I think you couldn't possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this... AND TOTALLY REDEEEM YOURSELF!"
What's it mean? As soon as we get the new brewery up and running, we'll be filling kegs - and as soon as the kegs are full, we'll be filling your glasses and growlers!