Commission rejects proposal to allow Dewey Beer Company

Planners seek a definition of ‘microbrewery’
June 19, 2013

Dewey planners shot down an ordinance that would have allowed a microbrewery to set up shop in the old Bishop’s Coffee Company storefront.  But the proposal is not entirely off the table.

Dewey Beach Planning Commission voted 5-1 to reject an ordinance that would have allowed a microbrewery in certain zoning districts in town, but the commission plans to recommend a series of workshops to define what should constitute a microbrewery in Dewey Beach.

Once the term microbrewery is defined in the town code, the commission says it will revisit a proposal from Dewey Beach Beer Company.

Brandon Smith, manager of Fifer’s Orchard, and Dewey Beach resident Clint Bunting, president of Rehoboth Beach Main Street, presented the 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.

Town council forwarded the proposal to the Dewey Beach Planning Commission for consideration.

Many residents wrote to the town’s planning commission in favor of the proposal, and six people – including Smith and Bunting – testified in favor of the zoning change at the commission’s June 7 meeting.

Smith said the brewery would not have a liquor license, and only beer brewed on site would be served to customers.  He also said he and his partners were willing to limit the establishment’s hours of operation and the number of pints a customer would be allowed to consume on site.

Bunting said the microbrewery would attract higher-quality visitors to Dewey Beach.  “People aren’t going to these places to get blasted,” he said.

Resident Dale Cooke said the brewery could extend Dewey Beach’s tourism season and benefit surrounding businesses.  “I think it’s going to have a positive effect in general,” he said.

Slightly more property owners wrote to the commission in protest of the microbrewery.  Property owner Betsy Damos was the only member of the public to testify in opposition to the proposal at the June 7 meeting.  Damos said there are already 20 alcohol-serving establishments in Dewey Beach.  “I’m pro-business,” she said.  “This is not the right place for a microbrewery. The risks are too high.”

The proposed ordinance would not have required the establishment to offer food.  “This would be a tavern,” Damos said.

Damos said she was also concerned about odors that could emanate from the manufacturing process and delivery trucks crowding residential streets.  Planning Commissioner Don Gritti, who cast the dissenting vote, agreed the presence of trucks to deliver raw materials and remove waste would be detrimental to the town.

“There’s a lot of negative impacts that I see,” said Planning Commissioner Mike Paraskewich.  “It’s going to be a tavern.”

Throughout the meeting, commissioners noted the absence of Town Attorney Fred Townsend, who drafted the ordinance.  “It’s a shame our attorney isn’t here,” said Commissioner Jim Dedes.  “My sense is the ordinance is too loose.”

Planning Commissioner David King said many people in Dewey Beach want an establishment similar to the Dogfish Head Brewpub in Rehoboth Beach – which brews a small amount of craft beer and serves as a restaurant.

Commission Chairman Harry Wilson said he visited the 16 Mile Brewery in Georgetown, which offers tastings and sells beer brewed on site by the pint, similar to Smith and Bunting’s proposal.

“The absence of food at that place really was kind of weird I thought,” Wilson said.  “It was a bar.”

Dewey Beach Planning Commission is scheduled to resume its discussion of microbreweries Friday, Aug. 2.

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