For the time being at least, Sonoma’s wine tasting room debate has been settled.
In a 4-1 vote Monday night, the Sonoma City Council approved some ground rules for Plaza tasting rooms – but chose not to put a cap on the number of tasting rooms allowed on the Plaza, or to require vintners to obtain use permits from the city.
“Hopefully we’re going to wrap this issue up this evening,” said Councilmember Ken Brown, part of the four-member majority that agreed only to limiting tasting room hours from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. year-round, limiting the number of special events to 26 a year, prohibiting “third-party special events” such as weddings, prohibiting food service and requiring a permit for live music.
Even those moderate regulations – which would affect none of the 26 tasting rooms currently operating on the Plaza – were more than Councilmember David Cook initially wanted.
At the outset of council deliberations, Cook said, “I do not support this, and I’ll be voting no.” The reason, he said, is that local wine tasting is “farm to table” and an essential part of Sonoma’s economy and identity. And more crucially, he opposed any proposal to require that tasting room operators obtain use permits.