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Too Many Tasting Rooms on the Plaza isn't the Problem

Having read a great deal of late about the proliferation of wine tasting rooms surrounding the Sonoma Plaza and the feeling among some that this situation is indicative of the downfall of the town, I thought I ought to offer another perspective, one that comes from a former, long-time resident of the Valley and Sonoma and who has a slightly different view of the situation.

Too many tasting rooms around the Sonoma Plaza are not the problem. Nor is the problem too many restaurants around the Plaza that favor tourism, but push out businesses useful to locals.

Rather, if you are looking for the source of the problem and looking to place limits, then look no further than the history that surrounds the Plaza.

You don’t have to be a hospitality or travel expert to know that history and the historical attract tourists like flies to honey. And there is no getting around the fact that Sonoma has a lot of history. Too much history, in fact! Why, if the Sonoma Plaza didn’t dedicate so much space to the historical, there wouldn’t be so many tourists overrunning the town and pushing out business and services for locals.

Think about it. The Barracks. The Mission. The Sonoma State Historical Park. The Historic Plaza itself.  The City Hall. The Sebastiani Theater And don’t get me started on all the historic buildings that line Broadway, are to the east of the Plaza and take space on each side of the Plaza. It’s overload and frankly, there needs to be a limit on the amount of history that surrounds the Plaza lest the town is taken over by the tourist who only care about the historical and care nothing for Sonoma and its denizens.

I’m not sure what kind of limit there ought to be or where to draw the line. But commonsense tells me that we don’t need anymore than 20 or 30 historical attractions or buildings around the Plaza. After a while, it just becomes overload, the lack of space for other types of businesses is limited thereby pushing up rents and, of course, there is the tourist problem they cause.

It may even be a good idea to get rid of some of the historical attractions around the Plaza. Imagine what could be done if we just choose to tear down the Mission and the Barracks. With that history gone, there would be more than enough room to build a dry cleaner, a paint store, a computer repair shop and maybe even a barbershop or a Five & Dime.

Not only would this new real estate provide room for shops benefiting the locals, but also, more importantly, it would help drive away the damn tourists who are ruining the town for residents.

If the good people of Sonoma are going to contemplate how to get the town back on track and make it safe for residents and not tourists, let’s start where the real problem lies: There is just too much history, not too many wine tasting rooms. Had Sonoma just put a limit on its history a few years ago, I’d never have moved to Napa.

Tom Wark, Napa, CA
Former resident of Sonoma, but driven away by too many historical buildings and the tourists they bring to town.)


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