Citizen file photos

The Dust Bowl Brewing Company plans to open a taproom at this historical building on Railroad Street.

By Lance Armstrong

Citizen Staff Writer

The Elk Grove Planning Commission on Sept. 16 unanimously approved a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the Dust Bowl Brewing Co. to operate a taproom in a historic, renovated building in Old Town Elk Grove.

That site is located at 9676 Railroad St., sits on about a 1.1-acre site, which was purchased by the city in 2017 for $420,000.

Upon the City Council’s approval in 2018, it was sold to the Sacramento-based D&S Development for the appraised value of $380,000. The city made that sale with the knowledge that it would eventually obtain more than its original investment on the property through an estimated $98,000 in interest accrued over the duration of the sale.

Located to the north of the property is a city-owned parking lot, and to the east are single-family residential homes. There is also commercial property to the south and railroad tracks to the west.

Brett Honore, co-owner of the Dust Bowl Brewing Co., described his business as a 12-year-old, family-owned craft brewery that is based out of Turlock.

“We have a main restaurant-brewery there (in Turlock) where we grew all our beer, and then in Monterey, a few years ago, we opened up a taproom there right on the port,” he said. “Our focus is beer and craft beer and family-friendly atmosphere. That’s all we’ve ever done and all we ever would want to deal with to be very honest with you.

“We try to be good neighbors; we try to do the right thing. We’re really, really excited about coming to Elk Grove.”

Dust Bowl’s future opening is part of Railroad Street and Old Town Elk Grove’s revitalization, which also includes the new Old Town Plaza, and another brick warehouse building that is owned and will be rehabilitated by D&S Development.

The conditional use permit process that led to the commission’s approval for the Dust Bowl Brewing Co. to operate in Old Town Elk Grove came through a 2018 Old Town Special Planning Area (SPA) amendment to allow bars, breweries, wineries and brewpubs in that area through a CUP.

The amendment allows a maximum of three new conditional use permits in that area.

With Dust Bowl’s approval and the 2019 approval of the operation of the Hungry Pecker Brewing Co. in Old Town, there is one remaining CUP available for bars, breweries, wineries or brewpubs within the Old Town SPA.

Bob’s Club, at 9039 Elk Grove Blvd., is the only existing business in Old Town that is recognized as a bar. Its history predates the Old Town SPA and the establishment operates under a legal nonconforming status.

In addition to the commission’s approval of Dust Bowl’s operation also allows a roof-mounted lit sign. The signage approvals were sought due to this historic warehouse’s eligibility to be listed as a historic resource.

It was also necessary for the signage to comply with the Secretary of the Interior’s “Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties,” to ensure that the installation of the signage does not negatively affect the preservation of the property’s historic significance.

Because the building’s historic brick walls are brittle, the city’s staff did not recommend that signage be mounted onto these walls, to avoid damaging these masonry materials.

The sign will only be lit during Dust Bowl’s hours of operation, which will be 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.

In addition to the building’s renovation, the project also included the construction of a new outdoor patio with a freestanding patio cover.

Antonio Ablog, the city’s planning manager, told the commission that the exterior building improvements are nearly complete and the building will soon be ready for occupancy.

The building’s floor plan, which was approved by the commission in 2019, allows for about 130 seats indoors and about 110 seats within the outdoor patio area.

Dust Bowl will also include amplified background music, and non-amplified live music “from time to time,” according to a city press statement.

Ablog noted that the planned live music is also intended as ambient music and “not necessarily a concert-type event.”

“As with any other business, within Old Town or (the) city of Elk Grove, if they do have special events, they do have the opportunity to pursue (a concert-type event) under a temporary use permit,” he added. “Those permits are reviewed by planning and code enforcement police to make sure that those one-time events won’t become problematic.”

During the commission’s deliberation, Commissioner Suman Singha expressed his support for Dust Bowl’s future Elk Grove location.

“I think this project will add a lot to the dining and craft beer experience in Elk Grove and really puts a new life to the (Old Town) Plaza,” he said.

Commissioner Juan Fernandez spoke about Old Town’s revitalization as a whole.

“I’m very pleased with the development happening in Old Town,” he said.