City ponders craft brewery

L&P-Brew-fest---beer-webMayor, council of Spring Park differ in reactions to inquiry

By Lorrie Ham

Spring Park City Planner Alan Brixius informed the city council March 21 about an inquiry regarding a possible craft brewery/taproom to be located at 4787 Shoreline Drive, a stand-alone building in the parking lot of the Marina Shopping Center. The building is the site of a former dental office and prior to that, a restaurant.

The current zoning would not allow that type of business at the Shoreline Drive location without a conditional use permit (CUP) or rezoning.

Brixius suggested several possible amendments to the zoning ordinance that could be made to accommodate such a request. While many opinions were shared amongst the council, no action was taken on amending the city zoning at this time.

In his report to the council, Brixius outlined the different levels of service that could affect both the zoning and business licensing required. As allowed by the State of Minnesota: a micro-brewery is a location where malt liquor is manufactured; breweries have the option of adding a “taproom” as an accessory use, which serves only malt liquor produced on site and is not required to serve food; craft breweries have the option of selling off-sale directly to consumers in the form of “growlers” through the taproom; brewpub restaurants, which are treated similar to other restaurants in terms of zoning and health laws.

The site at the Marina Shopping Center is zoned C-2, which would allow commercial sales and services, including a restaurant or brewpub, said Brixius. However, a brewery would not be a permitted use in that zoning district due to the industrial component of a brewery, which could include production, warehousing and wholesaling of malt liquor products.

Brixius went on to outline the city’s liquor ordinance, which requires businesses with a liquor license to serve food and have the food sales account for at least 75 percent of the gross total of sales, an ordinance that was put in place to prohibit taverns and bars that exclusively sell intoxicating liquor.

Brixius reported, “Spring Park’s food sale requirement of 75 percent for an intoxicating liquor license far exceeds the requirements of surrounding communities,” he said. Wayzata requires 60 percent food sales if serving full liquor and wine, but food sales are not required for a brewery/taproom. Excelsior requires 25 percent food sales with a $10 minimum food purchase. Minnetonka Beach, Mound, Orono and Tonka Bay do not have any food sale requirements for their liquor establishments.

Looking for direction, Brixius asked for the councilmembers’ thoughts.

“First of all, I’m against it,” said Mayor Bruce Williamson immediately. “There are all kinds of problems with all of this that go back 20 years. It was a long, hard trek getting rid of the bars, the saloons and the sleazy places that were once in this town.”

The majority of the council, however, seemed to be in favor of the
proposal.

“I’m super excited about it,” said Councilmember Megan Pavot. “I think a brew pub would be a destination and could be a benefit to nearby
restaurants.”

With a higher priced product, Pavot didn’t see the taproom as a place where people would go just to get drunk.

“I’d love to see us become more like our neighbors in Excelsior,” said Councilmember Pamela Horton. “I think this would open up a whole new opportunity for a meeting place.”

Councilmember Gary Hughes said he was probably in favor of a taproom proposal but would like more information. He also spoke out against a proposed “food truck” ordinance that could possibly go along with any zoning amendments.

“I think it’s a good use of a building that has been standing empty for a long time,” said Councilmember Shirley Bren, who mentioned breweries in Waconia and Excelsior who seem to take pride in their businesses. “Their locations are clean, neat and orderly. I think it would be a great addition.”

Mayor Williamson summed up his thoughts. “In the past, we put minimums on investment amounts that would have to be made so that we would have really viable substantial organizations providing these kind of amenities and get away from the cheap bars,” he said, citing the past when policing problems and too many bars in too close of configuration led to the “degradation” of a decent community.

“The problem is when you write a code, it applies across the board,” he said. “Will the next application be so desirable? It bears some thought before we charge ahead.”

“This is a different time – it’s not 20 years ago,” added Bren. “I don’t anticipate that anything like the past will be back.”

Brixius said he would forward additional background information from neighboring communities for the council to review.

“Microbreweries are the new wave,” Brixius said. “Even if this proposal goes away, there will be another one.”