September 2017 Issue of Wines & Vines
 
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Buellton Approves Public Market to House Wine Tasting Rooms

 
by Jaime Lewis
 
 

Buellton, Calif.—In the midst of a challenging season for wine producers looking to open tasting rooms in Santa Barbara County, the city of Buellton is opening its arms to wine-related businesses, in part through its Planning Commission’s unanimous vote to approve The Commons, a public market that includes 16 wine tasting and tap rooms, as well as fine dining and fast-casual restaurants, food and specialty goods retailers, a 6,000-square-foot central lawn and 4,000 square feet of event space. The market is set to break ground this fall and open in summer 2018.

Don Conner is a principal with Coast Development Partners, which is developing The Commons. He reports that all tenants will be local to the Central Coast (which he defines as Ventura to Paso Robles) and says Coast Development Partners already has received signed leases or letters of intent to lease for 80% of The Commons’ 38 spaces.

“The whole position of the development is artisan, craft, higher quality, more sophisticated,” he says, explaining that, consequently, the developers have steered away from national tenants. Coast Development Partners is targeting wineries that produce anywhere between 2,000 and 10,000 cases annually, though these limits also include small-production brands that are owned and operated by larger companies.

Long known as a working city among the more touristy towns of Los Olivos and Solvang, Buellton lies at the western edge of the Santa Ynez Valley, at the intersection of two of Santa Barbara County’s major traffic arteries: Highway 101 and Highway 246. The Commons will occupy 5 acres adjacent to the existing Firestone Walker Brewing Co. on McMurray Road.

“Right now, you have within wine country what I would call two daytime social districts: Solvang and Los Olivos,” says Conner. “Solvang now has about 15 or so tasting and tap rooms; Los Olivos has nearly 50. But when you look at both of those daytime social districts come evening, both kind of evaporate, and most of the activity and energy in the valley then transitions to the restaurants; they become the social hubs.”
Conner explains that by offering both tasting and tap rooms in addition to restaurants and retail in one location, The Commons project is set to capitalize on the congregation of day-into-night visitors.

“Buellton’s attitude toward business and development is definitely very pro-growth compared with other cities, and certainly with the county,” Conner said. “The city incorporated 25 years ago, partly to control its own destiny because a lot of tax revenue being generated was not being spent within its own area. They’ve operated as a fairly autonomous group ever since.”
 

 
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