Council Approves Beer Pub, Neighbors Vow ABC Appeal if Problems Arise

The City Council voted 3-1 to uphold a January decision by planning commissioners to allow a boutique beer pub to open at 745 San Pablo Ave. Some neighbors say they are still concerned about noise, garbage, parking and safety.

A San Pablo Avenue building that's been vacant for nearly five years may, later this year, house a gourmet beer pub and grass-fed hamburger shop following approval Tuesday night by Albany officials. 

Plans for the hamburger restaurant were approved in 2011, but the beer pub and bottle shop application stumbled in January when a group of neighbors asked the City Council to take a second look at plans approved earlier that month by zoning commissioners. 

Opponents said they were concerned about noise, garbage, smoking, public intoxication, parking and public safety. 

In response to their concerns, Councilwoman Joanne Wile asked for a review of the planning decision. 

That review took place Tuesday night before the City Council. 

Property owner Faramarz Pakzad and pub applicant Saed Toloui said they were more than willing to work with the city to address any concerns that arise, and would welcome a review within six months to check in.

Pakzad said he also owns the lot where El Cerrito's popular Elevation 66 opened, adding, "They've been open for nine months. There haven't been any of these issues we've been talking about."

According to the staff report for Tuesday's meeting, Elevation 66 brings in $4,000 in food and beer sales daily. Pakzad said he has invested $1.9 million already in the Albany property, and has plans to invest another $500,000 in tenant improvements related to the beer and burger businesses.

Several neighbors asked the council to consider requiring the beer pub to close at 10 p.m. nightly; the planning commission had said the pub could stay open until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, and close at 10 the other nights.

(The beer pub will be connected via an internal door to the hamburger restaurant, and the planning commission voted that it would thus make the most sense if the businesses had the same hours.)

The council voted 3-1 Tuesday night to approve the hours set by the Planning & Zoning Commission, and said they would review the business six months after it opens.

Council members Farid Javandel, Peggy Thomsen and Marge Atkinson voted in favor; Councilwoman Joanne Wile said she voted "no" because of the 11 p.m. closing time on weekends. Wile also said, however, that she appreciated the applicants' work and thought they would be "a wonderful addition to Albany."

(Councilman Robert Lieber recused himself from the discussion because he lives near the property.)

Neighbor Orwin Juntanamalaga told the council that nearby residents would keep a close eye on what happens with the business: "We're prepared to challenge the liquor license if we think this will disturb us," she said, adding that the beer pub "will be in what's essentially a residential community."

Several other neighbors also said they were concerned about the establishment's closing time, and the effect the business would have on their San Pablo Avenue neighborhood.

Eight local residents and business owners spoke in favor of the beer pub. 

Former school board member Michael Barnes compared the business to the popular Kensington Circus Pub, which he described as a neighborhood institution "that keeps the area together." 

Others said the proposed pub would offer a beer selection not currently found in Albany, and could become a destination for the growing international trend of specialty beer enjoyment.

Still others said it was time for the city to take a more welcoming stance toward entrepreneurs who consider bringing their business to town. 

"Other cities roll out the red carpet," said resident Brian Parsley. "We show up with pitchforks and say 'Get out.' Enough is enough. We need small businesses in Albany."

After the vote, beer pub developer Saed Toloui estimated that the ABC application would take another three to four months to work its way through the system. 

He said he would like to see the businesses open in 2012.

"We're hoping this year," he said. "The end of the year."

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If there's something in this article you think should be corrected, or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email her at albany@patch.com.

Brian Parsley February 23, 2012 at 11:54 PM
I believe there is much misunderstanding of the type of establishment that is proposed. This is not a bar. No hard liquor will be sold. This will be a bottle shop and taproom serving craft beer at moderate to expensive prices. Think of a Solano Cellars for beer. Although wine bars such as Solano Cellars or the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in San Francisco have been around for some time, the beer equivalent is relatively new on the scene. City Beer store in San Francisco and Beer Revolution in Oakland are both popular examples. However with the addition of the grass fed burger restaurant this will probably look more like Walnut Creek's ØL Beercafe & Bottle Shop http://www.beer-shop.org/. I doubt you will see anyone walking down San Pablo Ave drinking their Stillwater Artisanal Ales Cellar Door Saison at $14 a bottle or Fifty/Fifty Brewings Eclipse Barrel Aged Imperial Stout at $28 a bottle out of a paper bag.
Clay Larson February 23, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Skip, while, I’m not sure that San Pablo Ave. would be characterized as “bucolic,”, I agree that it’s underutilized, but doesn’t’ this conflict with your "moving in next to an airport" analogy that you offered earlier today. Perhaps it’s a bucolic airport. I think that you are” reaching” when it comes to Albany. City planning experts point out that there’s a critical mass requirement for high density, mixed-use development to really work. Calling our several blocks of commercial district, San Pablo and Solano Aves. (funny how Solano hardly ever makes it into this conversation) an “inner city” is not realistic. We don’t have enough population to support local serving business. We do have nail salons, high tech tanning parlors, and massage establishments covered though.
Skip Moore February 24, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Clay, the massage parlors and nail salons do seem to proliferate, but it must be a matter of demand and supply economics, It's generally baffled me, but they do contribute to the local economy. Perhaps these businesses mischaracterize the district. When I'm asked why we keep our offices here, I generally stand by the convenience. I have at least 15 places to eat within 3 blocks. I walk to my bank, my cleaners and to get my haircut (no, she doesn't do nails). Then there's chiropractic and dental offices, tire and car repairs. It's all right here. And I have 14 employees that do the same. That's what makes the whole thing tick. No, it's not Greenwich Village, but, as you've pointed out, it will continue to become increasingly dense. I don't believe it conflicts with my airport analogy, or other comments I've made about choosing to live in a congested urban area. If someone chooses to move into a place on San Pablo or even Solano, you had better be ready to accept what comes with it.
Jeff Parker February 24, 2012 at 06:46 PM
This sounds like a great place. I look forward to visiting it.
Zack M. February 24, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I can't wait for the beer pub to open! I'm super excited to have a place within WALKING distance to grab a couple good beers with friends, maybe a tasty burger, and then safely walk home, all while keeping my money local. Thank you to the city council for approving this. Gregory, I'm very sorry to hear you're so upset with the decision; I hope that none of your fears about the place come true. I really feel it will be a positive, not negative, addition to Albany. For the record, hasn't the Hotsy Totsy been there since the 1930s? So didn't you know it was there when you bought your house? And how do you know all these people behaving badly are coming from there? People drive like idiots all over, not just around bars. You should see how fast people drive down Key Route in front of my house, and there's not any place you get buy beer around there. I'm in no way defending their reckless behavior, as someone who bikes and walks everywhere, I'm well aware of the dangers of reckless drivers, I'm just saying it's probably not only the fault of the Totsy.


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