Monday, July 8, 2013

Do You Want Brewery Lounges In Vancouver?

Vancouver City Council is voting tomorrow on a set of bylaw amendments that would allow small lounges on the premises of craft breweries in Vancouver.  Yes, that's right, presently they are not allowed!  Provincial laws have changed to allow brewery lounges, but Vancouver bylaws need to be amended as well.

This is an important step in developing a better craft beer culture and industry in Vancouver.

If you like craft beer, send a letter to Council before 4pm Tuesday, July 9, 2013.  It has already been written for you by Barley Mowat - all you have to do is click a link, then hit "send".

Or if you're an enthusiast like me, you can expand on the form letter - see the letter I sent (below) if you need inspiration.


My letter to mayorandcouncil @

I am writing in support of the proposed amendments to the above-noted Zoning and Development bylaw, allowing brewery- and distillery-attached lounges in Vancouver (the "Amendments").


First, I adopt the sentiments of many other craft beer-knowledgable Vancouver residents, which you have undoubtedly seen in similar form:

"The burgeoning craft brewing and distilling industry supports a key demand of local residents: to purchase merchandise from, and thereby support, local businesses.

Vancouver residents increasingly recognize and desire the high-quality products produced by local breweries and distilleries, but unfortunately have to retire to their homes to enjoy these products beyond a small sample. Allowing lounges will encourage a sense of community around these new businesses, and will support local producers with a much-needed revenue stream, encouraging further expansion of this popular and valuable industry.

Additionally, our rapidly increasing local brewery and distillery scene has drawn the attention of visiting tourists, many of whom are dismayed to learn that the extent of their sampling is limited to a single sample per day. Adopting an amendment that will will erase this restriction, and bring Vancouver breweries and distilleries more inline with businesses in other jurisdictions, will be extremely beneficial to local businesses and residents, as it has been in such other jurisdictions.

I trust that you will consider the interests of both local businesses and residents such as myself when you address this matter on July 9th, and vote in favour this amendment."

Further, craft breweries are often an important first step in the revitalization of urban industrial zones challenged by the perennial flight of businesses to less expensive lands in the suburbs and beyond.  Unlike wineries, which are invariably located in prime rural, bucolic farm country, craft breweries are often set up in the light industrial zones of urban areas (and I believe in Vancouver, are required to locate in such zones), and are often leaders in the revival of communities in such areas.  See, for example, the article at this link (the text is included at the end of this letter):

Despite what might be alleged by unrelated industry groups or overly-concerned residents, 1) brewery lounges do not (and cannot) pose a competitive threat to Vancouver's huge and well-funded liquor-primary mega-clubs, and 2) brewery lounges will not spread large numbers of intoxicated persons (creating noise and mischief) outside of the designated downtown mega-club area known as the Granville Strip and surroundings.  In fact, brewery lounges are the very antithesis of the drunkenness and disorderliness I often encounter in the Granville Strip region.  Such brewery lounges attract local residents and tourists alike who are interested in craft beer and related products and services - that is, beverages that are imbibed and appreciated for their complex and subtle flavours rather than purely for their alcohol content.  The personal, symbiotic relationship developed between a local brewer or distiller and his/her local and foreign clientele is one involving mutual admiration, pride of craftsmanship and support of local small business - never one of profit through drunkenness.  I cannot recall attending a craft beer-related brewery, lounge, pub, festival or conference where truly excessive drunkenness, noise or other mischief has been an issue whatsoever.

One has only to look south to the states of Washington, Oregon and California - and in particular Portland, OR - to see the unbridled success of urban and suburban breweries with attached lounges and few restrictions.  Residents see these as cultural and community hubs, as anchor businesses in their areas, and as truly valuable assets.  I strongly recommend that council look to other jurisdictions that have successfully implemented brewery lounges for guidance in this and related areas.  Again, starting with Portland, OR.

In addition, I urge council not to deny the proposed amendment on the basis that it is too restrictive, as I believe several members of the Campaign For Culture have suggested you do.  While I agree that the proposed limits on brewery lounges should be lessened, council should not delay the implementation of the Amendments and send them "back to the drawing board" at this late stage; new, small breweries are relying upon the Amendments to get themselves off the ground (e.g. 33 Acres Brewing and Brassneck Brewery), and any delay could harm or destroy their successful launches.  Changes to the program can take place in a subsequent amendment.

I would consider it a tragedy should a handful of vocal, ill-informed residents and competition-averse businesses were to derail this vital step towards Vancouver becoming a more friendly, welcoming and liveable community; encouraging local, sustainable small businesses; and in particular realizing the immense benefits of a healthy craft beer tourism and brewing industry.

Council, thank you for considering this material, and please pass the Amendments on July 9.

Yours very truly,


A Tale Of 6 Cities Craft Brewers Helped Transform
July 04, 2013   12:01 PM

In once rundown urban districts across the country, craft breweries have helped to transform the neighborhoods around them.

Small business owners tackled the hard work of transforming industrial buildings, many of which had sat empty as demographic changes pulled manufacturers and residents to the suburbs.

Small-time, independent brewers have been one of the beer market's growth drivers. The number of breweries in the U.S. catapulted from 92 in 1980 to 2,514 as of May 2013, according to craft beer trade group Brewers Association. Barrels shipped have more than doubled in the past decade, and craft beer now makes up nearly 7 percent of a U.S. beer market that is growing slowly overall, according to trade publication Beer Marketer's Insights.

As the breweries churned out beer, they drew visitors and eventually new, young residents — and more small businesses.

Here's a look at six breweries whose presence helped to change their surroundings:

DOWNTOWN DIGS: Boulevard Brewing opened in 1989 in its Kansas City, Mo. Westside neighborhood, creating a brewery out of a building that had been a railroad's laundry. While it probably would have been cheaper for the company to be in the suburbs, the brewery's managers are "committed urbanists" who like the idea of contributing to the vitality of the central city as opposed to building on undeveloped land in the suburbs, says Boulevard's CFO, Jeff Crum.

The building's renovation ranged from replacing pipes to cutting out a skylight to make room for tanks. And in order to grow, Boulevard had to buy the land around it from different owners, get approvals from neighbors and get the city to rezone the land around it.

The brewery, at first, struggled to attract visitors, but now draws about 50,000 people annually as the area around it picked up alongside a broader renewal in nearby downtown Kansas City.

"Not very many years ago this would be an area you'd stay the hell away from," says Danny O'Neill, who started a coffee roaster, the Roasterie, down the street from Boulevard in 1993. Boulevard helped him find his building, and nowadays the coffee factory and brewery host tours and weddings. "Somebody has to go in there first, and I think that's the role that Boulevard played," O'Neill says.

ON THE WATERFRONT: Harpoon Brewery opened on the South Boston waterfront in 1986, when it was surrounded by auto body shops and little else. Now the brewery draws more than 85,000 people a year from tours and tastings, and thousands more from festivals. These days, the city is focused on redeveloping the area. New apartment and office buildings, restaurants and a convention center sit nearby.

Harpoon recently negotiated a 50-year lease with the city. The rent will rise over time, but generally, long leases provide protection from spikes that can happen when an area becomes so popular that property values skyrocket.

RUST BELT REVAMP: Great Lakes opened in Cleveland's Ohio City neighborhood in 1988. The downtown neighborhood was "perceived as dangerous and blighted" into the 1980s, says Eric Wobser. He works for Ohio City Inc., a nonprofit that promotes residential and commercial development while trying to preserve the neighborhood's older buildings.

Great Lakes built a brewery and a brewpub. Other breweries and businesses — a pasta maker, a bike shop, a tortilla factory, as well as restaurants and bars — followed. Newcomers flock to the neighborhood, even though Cleveland's overall population is still declining. The city repaved the quiet street next to the brewery, Market Ave., with cobblestones, and poured millions into renovating a nearby 19th-century market.

BREWERY BUBBLE: In the waterfront Ballard section of Seattle, home to fishing shops, shipyards and boat fueling facilities for decades, six breweries have sprung up in the past two years. They joined Hale's Ales and Maritime Pacific Brewing, which both opened in Ballard in the 1990s.

Hale's Ales in 1995 took over a facility that had housed an industrial hose manufacturer and before that a maker of engines.

The neighborhood has become "softer," says Hale's Ales manager Phil O'Brien. "What used to be fishing shops are little restaurants — what used to be hardware stores are now coffee shops."

While Ballard is still a hub of maritime industry, it has landed higher-income apartment buildings and has attracted restaurants and nightlife.

BROOKLYN BRANDS: When Brooklyn Brewery opened in the Williamsburg section of the New York City borough in 1996, its neighbors were mostly deserted warehouses and factories. Today, Brooklyn Brewery is surrounded by modern apartment buildings, trendy bars, shops and restaurants. There's still some graffiti, but that hasn't deterred the influx of new residents willing to spend a lot of money to live there. In the past decade, home values in the Brewery's neighborhood have more than doubled — up 145 percent, according to real estate appraiser Miller Samuel. Brooklyn Brewery and another local craft brewer, Kelso, worry that rising property values will eventually force them out of their current neighborhoods.

ACROSS THE BAY: The tech boom has made one brewpub's growth plans more complicated. In San Francisco, 21st Amendment brewery is two blocks from AT&T Park where baseball's Giants play. Along with the bustling technology sector, 21st Amendment helped to transform the city's SoMa neighborhood.

"People refer to use as the granddaddy of the neighborhood," says 21st Amendment founder Nico Freccia.

Now the company wants to build an 80,000-square-foot brewery — but property values are too high. The company has opened offices in the East Bay, and is scouting space there for the brewery, hoping to help revitalize an Oakland neighborhood.

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