Dewey Beer and Food brewpub stalls amid debate

Applicants will reappear at March planning meeting
February 10, 2014

A proposed brewpub in Dewey Beach hit another roadblock Feb. 1, as the planning commission said it could not move forward until more information is provided.

The Dewey Beer and Food Company is seeking a conditional use to open a restaurant brewpub at 2100 Coastal Highway in the former location of Bishop's Coffee Company and Bubba's Grill. Owners Clinton Bunting, Michael Reilly and Brandon Smith say the brewpub is modeled after the Dogfish Head brewpub in Rehoboth Beach and will be a year round tourist destination and job creator.

“Craft beer is kind of like wine,” Bunting said. “You don't go to a craft beer microbrewery brewpub to binge drink or things of that nature. You go there because you like the quality of the beer and the quality of the food.”

Planning Commission Vice Chairman Mike Paraskewich said the application is moving forward too quickly and codes were being overlooked.

“With all due respect, the town has given these people the opportunity to fast track their application to us,” he said. “That doesn't relieve them of the requirements to get into [town].”

The meeting was recessed until March 1, when the applicants will provide the information commissioners require to move forward.

Paraskewich said he would need to see architectural drawings showing the square footage of the brewpub and the footprints of the brewery process, specifically where the equipment and vents will be located and how dust will be controlled. He was also concerned the new owners would make substantial improvements to the building, which could require the owners to raise the building as required by Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations on structures in the flood plain.

Paraskewich's list of demands frustrated Bunting to the point he suggested withdrawing the application to find another avenue to open his business. He said he felt certain commission members had an agenda.

Paraskewich said he was only doing his job.

“I'm not opposed to the renovation of this building by any means or the success of young entrepreneurs,” he said. “I've been there, but what I'm saying is we can't just jump ahead and say we like these guys because it's going to be good for the town.”

About 750 square feet of the building will be dedicated to the brewing area, Bunting said. They are planning to operate a seven-barrel brewing system. Dogfish Head previously worked with a five-barrel system at its brewpub in Rehoboth, but recently replaced it with a state-of-the-art two-barrel operation.

The seating capacity at the restaurant will remain at 110, Bunting said, but the dining area will be expanded by 190 square feet within the current building.

Bunting said the brewpub will not be like other establishments in Dewey Beach. The intention is to close nightly at 11 p.m.

“We're not a restaurant coming in here that's going to move the tables and become a bar after 11 p.m.,” he said. “We know the ones that are doing that. We don't want to be a part of that problem.”

Craft beer drinkers, he said, aren't the type of people to get belligerent. He said people seek out good craft beer for the quality.

Resident Marilyn Seitz said allowing this business would further solidify Dewey's reputation as a drinking town. She said she believes the brewpub will contribute to the problem.

“This is an overloaded town that has a serious drinking problem,” she said during the public hearing portion of the meeting. “Granted they're not going to get drunk [at the brewpub], but that's going to start them out and they're going to go for cheaper beer when they can't taste the stuff anymore.”

Resident Jay Rooney said he would like to see the town's support in opening the brewpub restaurant. He said he often visited brewpubs while in Oregon.

“They seem to be the center for locals and visitors alike to meet and enjoy food and each other's company,” he said.

Former Councilman Zeke Pryzgocki also supported the brewpub idea.

“Dewey Beach really hasn't had an increase in bars or restaurants; we've renamed them, but we haven't increased them,” he said. “This would be a Dewey Beach product with locals that would be doing this. This would be an awesome opportunity.”

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