Kevin Shertz, local architect and potential Chestertown microbrewery proprietor, has released a statement on the Chester River Brewing Company Facebook page noting concerns with the proposed ordinance changes to permit microbreweries within town limits.
On Monday evening, the Chestertown Town Council will be voting on the issue of adding microbreweries to the list of possible zoning uses in Chestertown.
Unfortunately, this well-intentioned — but highly flawed –piece of legislation arbitrarily defines a microbrewery as:
“A facility in which specified quantities of beer… are brewed or distilled for distribution and consumption primarily off-premises, and which possesses the appropriate licenses from the State of Maryland.”
This differs greatly from the State definition of a microbrewery (a Class 7 license), which allows a license holder to sell up to 4,000 barrels of beer for on-premises consumption, and places no restrictions on how much of that product can be sold relative to their overall output. For example, were one to produce 300 barrels of beer per year, all 300 of those barrels of beer could be sold and consumed on-premises.
The arbitrary “consumption primarily off-premises” definition would likely require any prospective microbrewery to invest in highly-expensive bottling and packaging equipment to sell their beer. In addition, since microbreweries cannot self-distribute their product to restaurants, bars or liquor stores, it would also require a microbrewery to establish a contract with a distributor to get the bulk of their product to market. Both of these situations make the enterprise cost more and make less money since they must go through a middle-man.
I have made my feelings known in writing to both the Town and Town Council members that this legislation, if it passes in this form, will pretty much guarantee that Chestertown never hosts a microbrewery, as it will be arbitrarily restricting the rights of the State license holder. In addition, the startup costs and go-to-market strategy this proposed legislation requires are beyond what can reasonably be expected to turn a profit in a 4,700 person town located in a 20,000 person county.
While I don’t expect the Chestertown legislation to change, please let this serve as a notice that I’d be more than happy to consult with other municipalities in Kent County, such as Rock Hall, to help them craft zoning ordinances that may possibly help them bring businesses like this to their town at some point in the future.