How will Cambria Christmas Market work during 2021 holidays?

The 2021 Cambria Christmas Market will open at the Cambria Pines Lodge and Cambria Nursery on Friday, but it will be operating under the auspices of a 1990s-era permit for the lodge.

That’s what San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson told the North Coast Advisory Council on Wednesday.

That permit is more restrictive than the market’s expired 2020 permit would have been. Due to delays and appeals, the newer permit couldn’t be extended in time for this year’s event — which means it will be closed to the general public this holiday season.

The permit decision and other matters were agreed upon during a Nov. 18 meeting between Cambria Pines Lodge owner and market entrepreneur Dirk Winter and county staff, according to a county memo on the topic.

Those agreements mostly involve tasks that must be completed before set deadlines and/or opening day.

For instance, some incorrect advertising had to be removed from the Christmas Market website by Nov. 19, and corrected information had to be emailed to ticket holders.

According to the memo, if Winter missed those deadline, he could be fined an $1,000 administrative fine per violation per day.

People have waiting for weeks to find out what really will happen at the Cambria Christmas Market. Those include neighbors, Cambria shop owners and restaurateurs.

Based on traditional German Christmas markets, the Cambria Christmas Market traditionally features more than two million lights, elaborate holiday-themed displays and traditional German foods and drinks, as well as live music, an open-air market with vendors and a chance for kids to meet Santa Claus.

In comparison, this year’s event will be somewhat less elaborate and more restrictive.

The Nov. 18 meeting, as Gibson told the North Coast Advisory Council the night before, was designed to nail down once and for all “what’s reasonable and in substantial conformance” with the earlier lodge permit and to interpret how it will affect this year’s market.

The meeting was also intended to straighten out earlier misstatements made by organizers on the market website and in emails to 2021 ticket holders.

How will 2021 Cambria Christmas Market work?

According to a county memo titled “Clarification on Allowable Uses at the Cambria Pines Lodge during Holiday Season 2021,” here are some of the rules and requirements.

No more tickets are being sold to the public for this year’s Cambria Christmas Market.

“Based on the fire code, (Cambria Pines Lodge’s) dining and assembly occupancy is 800 persons, and hotel occupancy is 760 persons,” the memo read. “(The lodge) is estimating an average of 600 diners and 450 hotel guests per night during the holiday season.”

According to the Market’s website, “Since we are no longer permitted to have tickets available to the public, all previous ticket holders now have” automatic reservations for the hotel’s buffet-style German Dinner Experience at an extra cost of $25 a plate.

The menu includes a choice of bratwurst or schnitzel, served with German potato salad, macaroni and cheese, sauerkraut, purple cabbage with apples and a pretzel.

According to the market website, there will be four timed German-style dinner seatings per night, held at 4:30, 5:30, 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, Friday through Dec. 23.

German dinner pricing for people who don’t have tickets, but who want to see the lights, ranges from $45 to $55, or $20 for children. Those people can also choose to dine in the Lodge restaurant.

Getting into the market will cost each adult diner an additional $20.

Those who attend the German dinner will be given access to all market displays, including those set up at the nearby Cambria Nursery and Florist, where there’ll be shopping,

Diners and others also have the option of spending the night or weekend at Cambria Pines Lodge or two other Cambria hotels owned by Winter, Sea Otter Inn and J. Patrick House & Inn. Overnight stays entitle guests to attend the market.

People who bought tickets for the Cambria Christmas Market before sales were shut down have a couple of other options.

Cambria Nursery will be open during the market, with lights and other holiday displays, merchandise sales. Food and beverages will be available at the nursery’s café, which will be offering hot and cold sandwiches, as well as soups and sweets.

On-site parking for lodge guests and dinner patrons will be available, but it’s first-come, first-served, so it “may fill up quickly,” the website warned.

Market organizers recommend parking off-site at two Cambria spots: Community Presbyterian Church at 2250 Yorkshire Drive, which is about a third of a mile away, and the former Brambles restaurant, 4005 Burton Drive, located about three quarters of a mile down the hill. There, free shuttle service will be provided.

Very limited parking will be available at the nursery, according to the county memo.

The county memo also states that all seasonal lighting and other displays at the lodge and nursery must be turned off by 9:15 p.m., while all music shall stop by 8:45 p.m. There won’t be any train rides this year, and no biergarten will be allowed.

The 26 unpermitted vendor booths are to be secured and inaccessible to the public, and the same applies to a large temporary tent, according to the county memo. Those structures must be removed by Jan. 10.

The market can use outdoor pop-up tents to provide covered weather protection and additional social distancing for dining patrons, as long as the overall dining occupancy doesn’t exceed the fire code’s maximum for the permitted restaurant and banquet facilities.

Other compliance monitoring and permit requirements also apply.

For more information, call 805-927-6108, email [email protected] or visit cambriachristmasmarket.com.

According to the website, “Due to a high number of inquiries, our responses may be delayed. But we will respond as soon as possible.”

This story was originally published November 21, 2021 8:00 AM.

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Kathe Tanner has been writing about the people and places of SLO County’s North Coast since 1981, first as a columnist and then also as a reporter. Her career has included stints as a bakery owner, public relations director, radio host, trail guide and jewelry designer. She has been a resident of Cambria for more than four decades, and if it’s happening in town, Kathe knows about it.