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Wine tasting rooms are now allowed to begin operation within Newport Beach’s industrial zone.

Editors’ Note: This dispatch is part of the Voice of OC Youth Media program, working with student journalists to cover public policy issues across Orange County. If you would like to submit your own student media project related to Orange County civics or if you have any response to this work, contact Digital Editor Sonya Quick at squick@voiceofoc.org.

The Newport Beach City Council on March 23 voted 5-2 to give final approval to an ordinance, amending the zoning code to allow the tasting room operations to begin in the southwest portion of the city, near 16th Street and Placentia Avenue. Mayor Brad Avery and Council member Diane Dixon voted in opposition. The council’s initial vote on March 9 was 4-3, with Council member Duffy Duffield in opposition as well. The amendment takes effect 30 days after the final vote.

According to a staff report, this amendment “would establish wine tasting rooms as a subset of eating and drinking establishments within the zoning code; as well as allow them to operate within the industrial zone, subject to approval of a conditional use permit.”

This zoning issue has been a topic of discussion for the City Council since August 2020, during which a “limited-term permit was offered to Orange Coast Winery to allow existing operation to continue until final action is taken on the zoning amendment,” the staff report states. 

Council member Dixon said the ordinance was unfair to other businesses in the area.

“We are being asked to approve a request by a business owner who is in violation of not just any code but the fire code since 2015…That’s shocking,” Dixon said during the March 9 meeting. “I would like to be the number one supporter of this when we revise our general plan and it goes through the public vetting process to create a major change in this industrial area.”

Council members in favor of the zoning amendment said they believed the change would benefit the community. 

“I think the best thing the government can do is help a business survive,” said Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Muldoon. “I support protecting a business that’s feeding families. I would much rather go through this process to save a business than to go through this process to put a business out of existence.”

Most of the public comments and calls were in support of the ordinance.

“If it were a bar or nightclub, I would be totally against it. But it’s not those things. It’s a quiet and well run small business that offers Newport locals a nice place to go,” a resident told the council.

“I’m very in love with the thought of having a winery here, no one wants to drive to Temecula to go wine tasting when we can have it in our backyard,” said another speaker.

Some commenters opposed the rezoning amendment. 

“This wine tasting room seems to be an entertainment venue attracting visitors from outside. I think you need to change the definition of this land use designation in the general plan before you can have the zoning code change,” one speaker told the council.

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