By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Rule changes that could affect up to 550 businesses that serve and sell alcohol in unincorporated Sonoma County are up for discussion Tuesday at a workshop hosted by county planning officials.
The proposed changes would add new standards for security, staff training, signage and customer and site management, including trash and graffiti cleanup.
They would also fix a loophole in current regulations by requiring new alcohol-serving businesses larger than 10,000 square feet to secure a county use permit before opening their doors.
Facilities over 10,000 square feet in commercial zones currently do not have to take that step under a 2008 county ordinance governing alcohol sales.
The changes are aimed at dealing with crime, violence, public health and neighborhood issues that can increase based on the density of businesses serving and selling alcohol in a particular area, county officials said.
The tightened rules are backed by a number of public health and safety interests, including police and school leaders.
Businesses affected by the rule changes include mostly restaurants, as well as bars, stores, supermarkets and wine tasting rooms. Onsite tasting rooms at wineries would be subject to a smaller list of the updated operating rules.
The permit-related changes would not affect existing businesses unless they are found to be violating the tighter operating standards.
Serious, unaddressed violations could trigger a hearing before planning officials and the termination of alcohol sales.
But most of the rules are already standard in the industry, county officials said.
“A lot of this stuff people are doing anyway, or shouldn’t be very expensive to put into effect,” said Dave Hardy, a county planner overseeing the effort.
The workshop is set for 2 p.m. in the hearing room of the Permit and Resources Management Department, 2550 Ventura Ave., Santa Rosa.
The proposed rules are due back before the Planning Commission on Dec. 15 and would go to the Board of Supervisors for any final action.