Dewey Beer Co. is not wasting any time constructing a new microbrewery at a Harbeson business park; work is already underway.
At its Aug. 11 meeting, Sussex County Council unanimously approved a conditional use filed by the company for a 9,900-square-foot facility in the 5-acre Kings Landing Business Park at 18499 Harbeson Road, just north of the Route 9 intersection.
Under the proposed plan, nearly 90 percent of the building would be used for beer production, with a small area for tasting, retail sales and indoor seating. Sixteen tables are included in the site plan in an outdoor patio area. The plan calls for 115 seats – 64 seats on the patio and 51 seats in the tasting/retail area.
The company, which recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of its Dewey Beach restaurant/brewery, is locally owned.
Fred Townsend, the applicants' attorney, said the company's business plan was to start with the Dewey Beach restaurant and move production to an off-site location.
“We are overwhelmed by the demand for our beer,” said co-founder and general manager Brandon Smith. “We can't handle the demand and can't distribute beer. Restaurants ask for our beer all the time. Dewey Beach will remain our heart and soul, but we are running out of beer and need to make more. We want to focus on production and are excited about expansion and keeping our brand in Sussex County.”
Michael Reilly, head brewer, said the company has run out of production room at its Dewey Beach location. “This is an excellent location to accommodate demand,” he said.
The owners plan to have the facility operating sometime this fall.
Slight changes in hours
The only change to the conditions recommended by Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission was hours of operation.
Council approved an amendment proposed by Councilman Irwin “I.G.” Burton of Lewes to change the hours for the outdoor patio and outdoor entertainment to end at 9 p.m. instead of 10 p.m. Hours for the tasting room and sales area will be from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
Burton said staying open any later places an undue burden on residents in the area. “The patio is my biggest fear because it's in a residential area,” he said.
Reilly said hours would only be extended to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Brewery production hours will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
The focus is on production
Townsend said the operation is not a restaurant because there is no food production on the site, and beverages from other companies are prohibited from being sold. He stressed to council that the focus of the facility is beer manufacturing to meet the growing demand and to allow Dewey Beer to start distribution. “The patron area is an ancillary operation to production,” he said. “It's not designed to attract large numbers of people.”
Councilman John Rieley of Millsboro asked about parking provisions. Townsend said all parking in the business park is available to Dewey Beer Co. He said it's anticipated that the most traffic to the site would be from 4 to 9 p.m., when the demand for parking is low or nonexistent.
Rieley asked about disposal of waste from the brewery. Brewer Reilly said grain used in the beer-making process is fed to cows at Rehoboth Dairy Farm with pickups of the material taking place daily.
Wastewater and water services will be provided by Artesian Wastewater Management Inc.
Reilly said he also gets questions about potential smells from the operation. “It doesn't smell. We boil one to two hours a day and we've never had an issue in Dewey,” he said.
Council had questions about noise from possible live entertainment on the patio.
“It's not the centerpiece of what we do; our beer is,” Reilly said. “It will be low key on holidays with acoustic music on the patio facing Route 5.”
Burton said his concern is that the facility may become more of a bar than a brewery.
Reilly said similar concern was expressed during the approval process in Dewey Beach. “We are a restaurant with a bar in Dewey, not a late-night destination and not a noisy place. For five years, we've lived up to those standards,” he said.
And there will not be a restaurant at the Harbeson location. “Our defense is what we are currently doing,” Reilly said.
The company will employ about 10 people at the Harbeson location.