WatchSonoma Watch

County looks to tighten alcohol rules for bars and restaurants


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.

5 Responses to “County looks to tighten alcohol rules for bars and restaurants”

  1. Social Dis-Ease says:

    So many facets to our economy, our property rights, so much small business
    to sabotage…
    so little time.

    Leave us alone and fix the potholes.

    The only ‘protection’ we need is from our own government.

    Is anything immune? No.

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  2. Dogs Rule says:

    Please fix the roads and fund the schools. THANKS.

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  3. Canthisbe says:

    This seems like an indication that the economy is not very good. It appears that there are not enough projects on the drawing boards to keep the Planning Department occupied so they need to make up work solving a problem that does not exist. A better solution would be to to to lay Dave Hardy off until building activity picks up.

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  4. Graeme Wellington says:

    What this really is, is a method for lawyers to file personal injury lawsuits. With so many rules, there will be more “justifications” for people to sue the bar for not complying when something goes awry.

    Our County Planning officials need to work on figuring out the areas where they can butt out, not more areas to stick their noses into. I’ll bet a paycheck there is a lawyer in this mix trying to slip this by before they figure out what’s going on.

    Well, there goes a few more small businesses. Don’t think the insurance companies haven’t realized the consequences of this. Creating a huge liability risk like this is going to spike rates enough that that expense alone will push them out of business without a single lawsuit being filed.


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  5. john Lennon says:

    In this economy the last thing anybody needs is more useless regulations that hurt businesses.

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