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By Brian Park

A new winery under construction in downtown San Juan Capistrano can play music until 10 p.m. after the City Council decided to scale back from the Planning Commission’s midnight cutoff.

Although city staff recommended a 9 p.m. limit for live entertainment, the Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for Rancho Capistrano Winery in October that allowed for amplified music until midnight.

Residents from the nearby Los Rios Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered the oldest continuously inhabited neighborhood in California, sought to appeal the commission’s decision to the council.

The City Council voted unanimously, 4-0, to approve the changes, with Councilman John Taylor recusing himself because of his residence in the neighborhood.

While amplified music can be played on the winery’s outdoor patio until 10 p.m., the council placed no restrictions on music inside the business. Once completed, the winery will be open Sunday through Thursday until 11 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturday until midnight.

The appeal, which was led by Los Rios resident and Ramos House Café owner John Q. Humphreys, included 28 petition signatures from residents and business owners who either lived or worked within 100 yards of the winery.

San Juan Capistrano resident Phil Schwartze, a former mayor and current development consultant, was brought in by five of the petitioners—Humphreys, resident and attorney Stephen Rios, Five Vines Wine Bar, RokPrime Steakhouse & Grille and Sarducci’s Capistrano Depot—to “Henry Kissinger this thing.” Schwartze met with winery owners Eric Altman and Kyle Franson, and the three agreed to conduct a noise-level test once the business was up and running—now, unnecessary with the council’s decision.

Altman and Franson were receptive to the petitioners. Franson said during the weekdays, there would not be any activities and that the winery would not likely be open past 10 p.m.

“We’re not an amphitheater. We’re not a rock venue. We’re not going to be open until midnight blasting our music,” Franson said.

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