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Residents sue city over Midtown brewery plans

The Mill Supply warehouse on R and 26th streets.

A group of investors bought an empty warehouse in Midtown at R and 26th streets last year with ambitious plans to transform the building into a space for a new businesses. Those plans are at a standstill now after the project ran into staunch opposition from some neighbors.

The investors, led by commercial real estate agent Jim Quessenberry, plan to make the warehouse home to a small brewery and winery and — wait for it… Midtown residents aren’t too keen on having yet another alcohol establishment in the area. On June 14, a group of residents sued the city after the Planning and Design Commission approved the site plans.

The Citizens Against Alcohol Manufacturing in Midtown filed the lawsuit claiming the "City of Sacramento and the Planning and Design Commission of the City of Sacramento violated [the] California Environmental Quality Act…and in other ways abused their discretion and violated the law," according to court documents filed by Eileen Downes.

On June 21, the group started a Facebook page, which says it “was forced to file a lawsuit against the City of Sacramento in order to preserve the citizens’ rights to due process and preserve the decision-making power of our city council.” As of publication, the page has 10 “likes.”

Last year, Quessenberry and the investors bought the warehouse with plans to turn the building into office and retail space. Quessenberry then applied for a permit to allow wine and beer sales, the fermentation and brewing of the beverages, and a tasting room and outdoor patio on the premises. That is when Karen Jacques, founder and current board member of the Midtown Neighborhood Association, decided to fight to keep an alcohol venue away from the corner of R and 26th streets.

On May 9, a Planning and Design Commission meeting was held to discuss the proposed project. Matt Piner – the chair of the MNA, Jacques, and many others were there to argue against the plans.

The building is next to the light rail tracks and directly across the street from existing residences. Thirty-four homes are currently being built on the other side of the tracks in plain view of the warehouse. The MNA is concerned that once the brewery is built and opened, it will bring noise, crime and odor to the neighborhood.

“A neighborhood like this needs to be respected,” Piner said at the meeting.

The commission eventually approved the project with three conditions – the owners would close the brewery and tasting room at 8 p.m., build a sound barrier to absorb sound from the patio as to not bother neighbors, and install exhaust scrubbers to combat the smell of the brewery. The public then had 10 days to appeal the decision to have the issue be reviewed by the city council. Jacques appealed the decision on the last day, May 20, and the city council will vote on the issue in July.

“I filed the actual appeal with the city, but I didn’t just do it for myself…I did it because of the impact 26th and R will have on so many people,” Jacques said.

The main concern of those opposed to the project has been that the smell produced by the brewing process will drift over the surrounding neighborhoods and cause property values to drop.

Quessenberry says that he is open to suggestions when it comes to the project.

“We’re trying to be a good neighbor by obliging by the restrictions that have been set,” he said.

A brewery is not all that would be at the space. Quessenberry has also talked to a web design company, a record store and a juice bar about possibly becoming tenants. It is just the controversy around the proposed alcohol manufacturing that is giving his project trouble.

“I don’t know what the big fear is about a brewery,” he said.

Other small breweries and wineries have worked in areas like this before. He says that with places like Revolution Wines only four blocks away from the warehouse, he doesn’t see what is so controversial about his plan.

According to Quessenberry, six different breweries have been interested in taking the space. Twin Rivers Cider was previously said to be one of the interested parties, but have since expanded on their current location and are no longer looking into the warehouse.

If the city council were to reject the plans, Quessenberry said he would use the space for a restaurant and bar – for which the building is already zoned.

If the council approves the plan, Quessenberry thinks that the project will be a success and “improve R street.”

He believes that the council will take up the issue on July 23.

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