Uncle Charlie’s Firehouse and Brew clears latest hurdle, eyes opening in early 2024

The chambers of Folsom City Hall were near standing room only Tuesday night, most of which were present for a public hearing portion of the regular City Council meeting surrounding an appeal filed against a proposed brewery in the city’s Historic District.


The appeal came in the days following the Folsom Historic District Commission approval of a Conditional Use Permit and Design Review for Uncle Charlie’s Firehouse Brewery last month.

Located at 905 Leidesdorff Street in the Historic Folsom Plaza, the city owned space is 3,322 square feet in size and attached to the public parking garage. The space has been vacant for several years and was previously occupied by the Museum of Wonder and Delight. Since the closure of the business several years ago, the space has remained vacant in an area that sees the foot traffic of thousands annually.


After several business concepts were submitted to the city from a public bid request more than two years ago. Public input was put into the deciding factor for Folsom’s City Council as to what the best concept was to suit the location.  

After much consideration, Uncle Charlie’s Firehouse & Brew was determined to be the top choice by the city in 2021. The firefighter themed brewery is the brainchild of local daughter and father Taryn and Charlie Grows and went before the Historic District Commission, which approved it with several conditions at its March 1 meeting.


During the waiting period in the days following the approval, Folsom resident Bob Delp filed an appeal against the decision to approve the project.  Along with the fee of $495, Delp cited multiple reasons behind the appeal, which he says was focused on the process in which it was approved by and not the project, or its tenants themselves.


Delp raised concerns multiple aspects of the tenant selection process by the Historic District Commission as well as the Community Development Department.  Other concerns in the appeal included that the submitted project description was insufficient, not adequately analyzed, and should not qualify for California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemptions and cited concerns for parking demand. He also cited concerns that the potential odor and traffic impacts were not fully evaluated. 

“I found out about this project just a few days before the March 1 Historic District Commission meeting,” said Delp, as he addressed the council Tuesday night, citing that the project moved forward quietly with very little public knowledge. “The project apparently started moving forward in November of 2021.”


Folsom Mayor Rosario Rodriguez responded to Delp’s comments regarding the public knowledge, stating there were several public discussions leading up to the project’s approval.

“I don’t know who the applicant is, I have a feeling I here will shortly but she is super enthusiastic. She obviously will be a wonderful business owner. The dilemma or contradiction that she sees in my letter is because she has not seen the things that I have seen in the city’s process. I have seen the city bend over backwards to try to avoid meaningful analysis.  

I am here tonight as a beer drinker that wants this project done right. I am a CEQA consultant” added Delp. “In my appeal letter I said I would volunteer my time and we could this Uncle Charlies project right and do it quickly. We could knock out an actual CEQA document instead of denying that the project might have impacts and we could take care of it.”

Steve Banks with the City of Folsom Community Development department addressed many of the concerns Delp raised in his appeal. Banks shared the results of the analysis that was performed by his department in response to the appeal. 

According to the analysis, Folsom Municipal Code limits the focus of project-related appeals to any determination made by the Historic District Commission. “These portions of the appeal are not directed toward any determination made by the Historic District Commission and, as such, they are not a proper subject for appeal.”

Banks continued to address the council, addressing each of the items included in the appeal. Banks explained how the multiple items of concern in which the appeal was based upon were properly addressed in the approval process of the project. Some of which were met with specific modifications to the use permit proposed by the commission and agreeable by the applicants which included proper venting and operation hours of the brewery equipment.

“A large number of the comments in Mr. Delp’s appeal letter focus on issues that are not related to the project and not related to the approval by the Historic District Commission, “said Banks.

“The applicant did provide a full project description, including elevations and a site plan and it was sufficient. Mr. Delp contends a number of areas of the project were not fully analyzed and staff disagrees and contends all of the areas were fully analyzed. Mr. Delp contends that the project does not qualify for a CEQA exemption. It actually qualifies for two exemptions.” 

After being asked for clarification by Councilmember Sarah Aquin City of Folsom Attorney Steven Yang explained the basics of the CEQA exemptions the project qualifies for. 

“A class one exemption applies to an existing location. A class three exemption applies to a conversion of small structures, which is applicable is less than 10,000 square feet,” said Yang  “We are not talking about the entire structure that includes the parking structure its attached to. Those two are clear. The use is not exceeding the space of the structure.”

Tuesday’s appeal hearing brought a near capacity crowd to Folsom City Council. Photo: Adam Frick

Taryn Grows took to the podium twice on Tuesday night with emotional and educational testimony. She commended the many members of city staff that has assisted her family though the long process they have endured.

“Through this process I have seen parts of the city governance that I respect and admire more than ever before,” said Grows. “The jobs of the behind-the-scenes staff including Community Development, Parks and Recreation and the Planning Department. I just hope that the council knows, their jobs are not easy. 

Grows went on in regard to Delp’s appeal letter and its focus. She then commended council for the tough decisions they have to make in such situations.

“What was most blaring with Mr. Delp’s appeal letter was that his grievance isn’t so much with our brewery, it has mostly to do with the process,” said Grows. I don’t envy any of you up there tonight, I don’t know if I could be that objective if I was in your shoes.”

In defending her family’s project, Grows asked council to consider denial of the appeal. She also requested modifications to the conditions previously agreed upon. Those requests involved the brewing hours, as well as removing a condition that disallowed dancing at the facility.

“Since when did we become the movie Footloose here?” mused Grows. 

Council member Mike Kozlowski seemed surprised at the restriction.

“How did we come up with a Footloose clause?”  asked Kozlowski. 

Banks responded, explaining it was related to noise conditions and it could be easily modified, along with the hours should they deny the appeal. 

Several members of the community spoke in regards to the project as well Tuesday night. The majority of those in attendance were in support of the project. A handful expressed their concern for the historical aspect of the district, citing the brewery’s design could alter that. 

Joe Gagliardi, CEO of the Folsom Chamber of Commerce was one of the final speakers. Gagliardi spoke in favor of the brewery, noting the abundance of young adults at the meeting showing their support is an indicator of the type of visitors that will support such a business, as well as support the city upon visiting the area.

“As for the historical aspect of the project, it’s attached to a parking structure,” sad Gagliardi. “That parking structure is made of modern materials and wasn’t here long ago so I don’t see it affecting our history in such away “

Tuesday’s meeting was one of the longest of the year so far, pushing up against the 10:30 cut off that us usually followed. Council members agreed to go past the curfew to address additional items on the agenda following the appeal hearing and deliberation. 

After brief deliberation, council voted unanimously to deny the appeal and permit the project to move forward. They agreed to modify the conditions as requested.  The chambers erupted in applause after the vote. 

At the same time, multiple council members acknowledged Delps for his in-depth research and his concern in regards to a flawed process. They welcomed Delps to consider working with the commission and other departments  by engaging in meetings, rather than filing an appeal, in an effort to improve such processes. 

“I am a process person,” said Rodriguez. “It there are ways to improve a process and a procedure, we should be working to do that.”

 Moving forward the Grows will work with the city on lease negotiations. E Thereafter they can proceed with obtaining the necessary licensing and applying for building permits accordingly.