The Kenwood Press
News: 02/01/2019

SVCAC gives OK to B.R. Cohn concert expansion

The Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission (SVCAC) recommended that the county approve a one-time event permit application from B.R. Cohn Winery to increase its concert weekend from one to two.

Commissioners voted 7 to 2 to in favor of B.R. Cohn putting on concerts the weekends of Sept. 14-15, and Sept. 21-22. The winery has applied for a one-time special events permit.

Located at 15000 Sonoma Hwy., the Glen Ellen winery has put on single-weekend concerts for close to three decades.

At the SVCAC meeting, Pat Roney, president of Vintage Wine Estates, the owner of B.R. Cohn, said the request for the second weekend stems from the costly infrastructure cost of putting on the event.

“It’s very expensive,” said Roney, “So we’ve asked for two weekends to make it work for everybody.”

Roney said that if everything goes well this year, there are plans to ask for a modification to the winery’s use permit to include the concerts permanently.

There would be a country music show one weekend, and a rock show the other, with a maximum attendance each day of 4,000. Music would play from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the event ending at 7 p.m. Parking is located offsite, with buses and vans shuttling concertgoers to and from the site.

A part of the proceeds from the concerts will benefit Sonoma County Regional Parks.

SVCAC commissioner Matt Dickey, a Glen Ellen resident who represents northern Sonoma Valley, expressed concern about setting a precedent for other wineries requesting large events. He voted “no” on the proposal, stating, “Wineries are agricultural facilities, and this has nothing to do with producing wine. It has to do with marketing wine.”

Fellow north valley commissioner Margaret Spaulding, also a Glen Ellen resident, voted in favor of the concert expansion, stating that because many years of concerts have occurred at B.R. Cohn, she “considers it kind of a grandfathered event that has deep roots in the community.”

Both Dickey and Spaulding noted that county land use rules are silent on what wineries can do in terms of events and activities, making unclear as to how the SVCAC should proceed in some cases.

County panels and working groups have talked about the proliferation of events at wineries for a number of years, but so far no specific rules or definitions have ever officially been proposed. The topic is on the county’s “to-do” list for the upcoming year.

“I hope this issue comes back to life so we can get some policy established,” said Spaulding.