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Firestone buys a building proposed to become a cardroom

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A stark disagreement that’s been brewing in Paso Robles since July hinged on where a cardroom does and does not belong has been resolved with the sale of a building and a handshake.

Don Ezzell, owner of the Paso Robles Central Coast Casino, announced this week that he’s completed the sale of a building at 1649 Ramada Drive intended to be the cardroom’s new location. That building will be sold to the nearby Firestone Walker Brewery LLC.

Ezzell and brewery owner Adam Firestone were at odds over whether a cardroom was appropriate for the strip along Ramada Drive, an area zoned for industrial and manufacturing uses. The city’s zoning code doesn’t currently permit a cardroom in such an area, a fact that prompted Ezzell to request a zoning amendment so he could move the business from the current Black Oak Drive location in northern Paso Robles near the fairgrounds, to Ramada Drive in southern Paso Robles in a more visible and up-and-coming area considered a “gateway” to the city.

After the city’s planning commission approved the zoning amendment 7-0 in June 2014, the City Council changed direction and denied the amendment 4-1 on July 1, 2014. That decision came after concerns were raised by Firestone and other neighboring business owners, who said that a cardroom wouldn’t jive in the area, which primarily sees daytime use with the exception of the Firestone Brewery and a few newly opened beer and wine tasting establishments.

The denial came as a shock to Ezzell, who’d already entered into a contract to buy the building from its owner and operator Knights Carpet and Interiors. On July 2, Ezzell learned that Firestone had made a backup offer, prompting Ezzell—who by trade is an attorney for the energy business—to write a letter calling out Firestone for not disclosing his interest in purchasing the building while speaking against the zoning amendment, saying he gave “inappropriate, unlawful, unethical, and fatally conflicted opposition testimony.”

As time went on, Ezzell swayed a new City Council to reconsider the rezoning. The item was set to go before the planning commission April 14.

While Ezzell is still looking to relocate the cardroom, he’s decided to hold off.

In an April 7 announcement made via the online communications service PR Web, Ezzell wrote: “The cardroom tabled its application to relocate to Ramada Drive currently pending before the Paso Robles Planning Commission and City Council in favor of a different direction.”

Ezzell declined to comment on the specific transaction or future plans to move. Both Ezzell and Firestone told New Times that the resolution was cordial and friendly.

“I think this is a win-win-win.” Firestone said. “It’s a win for the neighborhood, it’s a win for the Ezzell family, and it’s a win for the Knight Family.”

Firestone added, “I had some great chats with Don Ezzell about it, and it’s the best outcome.”

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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