In 2015, we reported on the exciting new changes J-E Paino hoped to bring to Dixon with his Ruhstaller beer label (“Legacy Crop” by Allison Joy, April 2015). The 8.5-acre hop yard and farm and outdoor tasting room in Dixon, however, had their power turned off in April following a long-running disagreement with Solano County. We talked with Paino and county officials about Ruhstaller’s future.
Paino says he’s spent about $15,000 on upgrades to the Dixon property, buildings and electrical wiring in response to the county’s demands — who cite permitting issues and potential lawsuits over exposed wiring and building concerns. Despite that progress, he says, the county still shut off the power and made it illegal to occupy the property until its concerns were addressed.
“They worked with us to see what we could do,” Paino says. “But every time we get directions from the county, and hone in on that direction, they change the dynamics of the conversation.”
Paino says the county is using the electric company as its hammer, while the county says Paino needs to go through the same permitting process as everyone else and obtain a conditional use permit. Bill Emlen, director of the Solano County Department of Resource Management, says that Ruhstaller originally only grew hops on the land, but then Paino and his team added a tasting room and other buildings, which weren’t permitted. The county tried to work out a short-term use solution for Paino, but plans always fell through, Emlen says.
“There were things that needed to be done immediately,” says Supervisor John Vasquez, whom Paino credits with being a great help during the process. “I thought we were close to solving the matter; I thought he probably could have avoided [getting the power shut off].” But Paino still needs to comply with electrical codes, the zoning issue and some structural concerns, Emlen says. Additionally, Paino doesn’t own the land, according to Vasquez, which throws another wrench into the whole problem.
Meanwhile, Paino has set up generators at the farm to keep his product refrigerated. He doesn’t know what the future looks like for Ruhstaller beer — though the downtown Sacramento tap room remains open. While the permitting issues at the farm are “incredibly complicated” and frustrating, he says: “I love Sacramento, I love California, I love my team. I’m not going to let them win, but we’re definitely limping along right now.”