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Why It's So Hard To Open A Microbrewery In Los Angeles

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Angel City Brewery (Photo by Doran via the LAist Featured Photos pool)
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Los Angeles' microbrewery scene has been slow to catch on compared to other parts of the country (and even the state). But it turns out that when microbreweries do want to settle in a market that isn't quite tapped out, many of them are looking just outside of city limits.

The Daily Breeze says that's because microbreweries are being pushed out by the red tape and bureaucracy in Los Angeles, while being lured to nearby cities like Torrance.

Laurie Porter, co-owner of Smog City the newest brewery to open in Torrance, told The Daily Breeze her experience:

"We had been dealing with the city of Los Angeles for about three years intermittently, going in and talking to them. Every time we went in it was not the best experience and every time we went in it was a different person. We came to Torrance and it was the same people (we were dealing with) over and over and over again I felt like I could create a relationship with, get to know and if I needed an answer I could call the right person."
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When Redondo Beach saw what was happening in nearby Torrance, the city wanted a piece of the action and worked to streamline the requirements for microbreweries even before any would-be brewers considered moving there. That means that when Tom Dunbabin walked into City Hall, he was able to get his brewery Coastline Brewing Co. approved within 10 weeks: "The people who work in the Planning Department understood the business. They saw this as us putting in a destination in north Redondo."The South Bay is quickly becoming a hotspot for craft brewers, and it has been the destination of the Los Angeles area's first beer tours. But breweries have been popping up all over the county, including the San Gabriel Valley, Long Beach, Claremont and Lakewood. Pacific Plate Brewing Company opened in Monrovia this week, explicitly to avoid red tape in Los Angeles, its owner told The Daily Breeze.

Brewers that have been able to make it in city limits said it was a tough process. One of the pioneers Eagle Rock Brewery described the process of applying for a permit in 2008 as "an exercise in bureaucratic gymnastics."

MacLeod Ales, which is hoping to open the first craft brewery in the San Fernando Valley, told The Daily Breeze that it has threatened to move outside of Los Angeles after the process became a headache. They're hopeful that they'll open in Van Nuys by 2014, but they have a feeling it would have been easier elsewhere: "We've talked to breweries in surrounding areas and they gave us their condolences that we chose Los Angeles."

The red tape might be a headache, but brewers are optimistic about business in Los Angeles. Alan Newman of Angel City Brewing, which opened in downtown Los Angeles, predicts a big boom in craft beer: "The world of craft beer skipped over Los Angeles County and it now seems to be coming back into the fold with the rest of the West Coast."