A new bill to allow breweries to open more easily in downtown areas of Montgomery County has the support of most of the County Council.
Council member Hans Riemer on Tuesday introduced legislation that would change zoning regulations in downtown business districts and other mixed-use zones. The change would allow breweries where the sole business is to brew and sell beer.
Current zoning code requires breweries to operate as an accessory use to a restaurant in urban business districts, although some have previously qualified to open under varying zoning code interpretations, according to Riemer.
“More and more, we’re seeing interest from breweries opening where beer is their primary business,” Riemer said when he introduced the legislation Tuesday. He added that the restaurant requirement, which was included as part of the council’s 2014 zoning code rewrite, has been problematic for owners trying to open and obtain financial backing for new breweries in downtown districts.
“For the real estate community, banks and entrepreneurs, this will prevent a lack of certainty in the zoning code,” Riemer said in an interview Wednesday.
The change would apply to state-licensed craft breweries that produce less than 22,500 barrels per year.
Riemer’s bill also has the backing of Council members George Leventhal, Tom Hucker, Nancy Navarro, Roger Berliner and Marc Elrich, giving it more than enough votes to pass the nine-member council.
Emma Whelan, co-owner of Astrolabe Brewing, which plans to open on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring in mid-2018, said she supports the change.
“I think anything that encourages craft brewing in Montgomery County is a great thing,” Whelan said Wednesday.
Astrolabe is among a group of new breweries planning to open over the next year in the county. Others include Parallel World Brewing Co. in downtown Silver Spring, True Respite Brewing Co. in Derwood and Saints Row Brewing in Rockville.
Julie Verratti, an owner of Denizens Brewing Co. in downtown Silver Spring, said the zoning change is a smart move.
“I think it’s good for the local economy. It will encourage business growth and business openings,” Verratti said.
She noted that Denizens does not have to serve food, as it was grandfathered in under previous regulations in place before the zoning rewrite. However, it has a full kitchen that serves a variety of items.
Riemer said the council may approve the bill as soon as the end of the year.