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Wine tasting room converts to coffee shop 

Socrates Coffee House Atascadero

From left, bothers Michael and Nicholas Campbell will open Socrates Coffee house the third week of May at 5985 Traffic Way. Photo by Heather Young

Brothers opening Socrates Coffee House in May

Atascadero will get a new — and different — coffee house when The Barrel Room at 5985 Traffic Way closes in the next two weeks and then reopens the third week of May as Socrates Coffee House.

The Barrel Room was opened four years ago by Larry and Tina Wysong, who own and operate several businesses in downtown Atascadero. Michael Campbell has worked in the tasting room for the last three years, but said he has wanted to open a coffee house for many years.

“I mentioned it to Larry a while back that it would be nice to have a coffee house in this location,” Campbell said, adding that Larry agreed. The Wysongs will continue to own the property, but Campbell and his brother, Nicholas, will own and operate the coffee shop. “We’ve always wanted to open a coffee house.”

The Barrel Room has featured many different wines from around the area, especially smaller production wines that did not have a tasting room, as well as a selection of beer from time to time. The coffee house will specialize in European coffees — which Campbell explained means that there will be fewer syrups used in the drinks — and will also offer beer and pastries. Campbell said they won’t serve wine because of the requirements in order to have both beer and wine.

Michael and Nicholas started hanging out a coffee houses when they were teenagers growing up in the Los Angeles area. The theme of their coffee house will be a mix of 1960s folk music and Greek, as a nod to the business’ namesake, Socrates, who was a Greek philosopher in 400 BCE.

“It’s very 1960s, kind of folk–in the essence of the folk club,” Campbell said. The folk club movement, which started in Western Europe before moving to the United States, is credited with playing a key role in acoustic music and in launching the careers of musicians such as Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian, Phil Ochs, Bruce Springsteen and many others.

With the folk club in mind, Campbell said the coffee house will have folk music at least once a week. At The Barrel Room, Campbell has put on musical nights over the past several years, packing the intimate room. The walls, he said, will be adorned with art he and Nicholas have been collected since the 1960s. One artist in particular Campbell noted is Margaret Keane, who is known for painting women, children, and animals with big eyes. The 2014 movie “Big Eyes” focuses on Keane.

Nicholas said the coffee of the day will be a “cup of hemlock,” as a joke as Socrates was sentenced to death and ordered to drink a poisonous cup of hemlock in 399 BCE.

The farewell party to The Barrel Room will be held on Friday, April 17 at 6 p.m. to give a final toast to the business. Socrates will be open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, call (805) 462-9000 or email

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