Dewey council hears brewpub proposal

Business would require a zoning change
Clinton Bunting and Brandon Smith are proposing a brewpub in Dewey Beach, which would be located at the former site of Bishop's Coffee Company. BY KARA NUZBACK
March 18, 2013

Two men with roots in Dewey Beach are aiming to open the small town’s first microbrewery.

Brandon Smith, manager of Fifer’s Orchard, and Dewey Beach resident Clint Bunting, president of Rehoboth Beach Main Street, presented a business proposal to Dewey Beach Town Council March 9.  Smith said the proposed brewpub would produce beer, offer brewery tours and house a small tasting room on Route 1.

“We are home brewers, and this is the first step in making ourselves microbrewers,” he said.

Unlike many other businesses in Dewey Beach, Smith said, the brewpub would not be dependent on the summer season.  “We would be a living, breathing business all year round,” he said. “Just because people left, it doesn’t mean we closed down.”

Smith said the brewpub could piggyback on shoulder-season events to attract more fall and winter visitors to Dewey Beach.  “There is a state-sponsored Delaware Beer Week in October,” he said.  “We want to have maybe a Dewey Beer Week here in October.”

He also said the brewpub would never exceed 90 patrons.  “We are not a bar,” Smith said.  “We are craft beer.  There’s a cultural difference.”

Bunting said part of his role in the operation would be to upgrade the building, which he owns, at 2100 Coastal Highway.  The proposed brewery would be located in the end unit of the building, formerly Bishop’s Coffee Company, which is now unoccupied.

The brewpub would be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and the brewery would operate from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Smith said.

Smith said he expects the brewery would make 1,600 barrels in its first year of operation.  Beer would be brewed twice a week, and the smell being emitted would be similar to cooked grains.

Property owner Marcia Schieck said she wanted a guarantee the operation would emit no odors.  “I own the house behind the proposed establishment,” she said.  “The odors can be quite strong from brewing.”

She said the stretch of Route 1 between Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach would be a more appropriate place for a manufacturing operation.  Schieck also said a brewery could open the door to more manufacturing in Dewey Beach.

Bunting said he was confident the smells from the brewery would be less offensive than the smells that came from Bubba’s Grill, next door to the establishment.  “Less smells than that gas station that’s right behind your property,” he said.

Town Attorney Fred Townsend said an ordinance would have to be drafted and a public hearing held before council could approve the business.  “It’s not really a restaurant; it’s not really a bar,” he said.  “We don’t have a classification that exists.”

“This is going to be a zoning change,” Townsend said.  He said council could either create a manufacturing zone or target an ordinance specific to the microbrewery.

Commissioner Courtney Riordan said Townsend should develop a low-cost conditional-use permit for the business.  “It’s an attractive proposal,” he said.