Beer here: Zoners draft brewery approval

Beer drinkers, be on the lookout: An ice-cold pint of locally brewed ale could be on tap as soon as this year.

That was the result from Tuesday night’s Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing, where a proposed microbrewery — with a tasting room to fit 40 people — at 137 Ethan Allen Highway (Route 7) received a draft resolution for approval.

Although Ridgefield zoning regulations don’t specify their permitted use, breweries — and by extension “brew pubs” — lie in the crux of manufacturing and food establishments, both permitted under commercial zone regulations, but not specifically for mixed-use purposes.

Attorney Bob Jewell presented an amendment to the existing regulations that would include “brewery” and “brew pub” on behalf of his client, applicant Robert Kaye, who plans to portion off part of the 32,000-square-foot building to open his unnamed brewery.

Kaye’s manufacturing businesses on-site, Riverside Fencing and Riverbed Wood Floor Co., would all remain in operation next to the new brew pub, Jewell told the commission.

Town Planner Joanne Meder will draft a resolution of approval for both the regulation amendment and a new special permit use for the brewery to operate within the town’s commercial zone.

The commission will vote on both resolutions at its next meeting, Tuesday, Jan. 17.

Design plans

Jewell said the brewery would be 2,440 square feet and would include a 675-square-foot tap room for patrons to sample beers and eat snacks, such as chips and pretzels, that wouldn’t be prepared on-site.

The brewery would be able to produce 10 barrels of beer, twice a week, to be served on-site.

Customers could also purchase 64-ounce growlers to take home.   

Jewell said beer could be distributed to businesses if there was a demand for the product.

Retail

Beer won’t be the only thing being sold.

The plan includes selling brewery-related items, such as shirts and glasses, out of a small, 200-square-foot space.

The commission was firm that the retail space could not be any larger.

Commission member John Katz said that any retail expansion on the site would make the whole corridor vulnerable to unwanted stores in the future.

“It would allow the equivalent of what Starbucks sells in terms of coffee making machines,” he said. “It would allow a whole panoply of retail sales that would now be permitted in that zone.”

Jewell said the retail portion would be related only to the brewery and would not be the most significant aspect of the business.

“The idea here isn’t to become a retail outlet, it’s to brew beer,” he said.

Fermentation

The board asked about the possible aromas that could be generated when brewing beer.

Jewell said the only smell would come from the fermentation process.

“There would be no beer smell per se,” he said. “But when boiling grain it would smell like a bakery.”

This concern was echoed by Ridgefield resident and adjacent property owner Donna Lounsbury.

“I don’t want to be sitting on my front porch during the summer smelling like I’m at a bakery,” she told the room.

Jewell countered that the existing regulations already allow for restaurants that vent smells.

“If I decided that I wanted to open up the world’s first 32,000-square-foot liver and onions restaurant, I could do that,” he said. “Without even coming in here for a hearing I could fry liver and onions all day long.”

Hours

The special permit draft has several stipulations.

Brewing will be limited to a 20-barrel-per-week maximum, and appropriate ventilation will be required if complaints arise about unpleasant smells.

Jewell also agreed to the proposed hours of operation: open seven days a week, from 4 to 9 p.m. weekdays, 4 to 11 p.m. Saturdays, and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Any changes would have to be revisited with the commission.

If the commission approves the draft next week, Kaye will then have to obtain permits from federal and state organizations before beginning any work.