To open a tasting room at a brewery in the city of Memphis, brewery owners have to serve more than beer to their patrons.
Under existing law, they also must offer meals with at least one meat and one vegetable, prepared on premises with “adequate kitchen facilities.”
For would-be owners of micobreweries or nanobreweries in the Bluff City, the food requirement is a significant expense, especially when the capital to pay for a craft brewing operation is so costly.
With that in mind, new regulations being considered by the City Council would eliminate the food requirement at breweries and allow for taprooms with on-premises consumption of pints.
The proposal, which is part of an overhaul of the city’s alcohol laws and is a companion ordinance to amendments to the Memphis and Shelby County Unified Development Code (UDC), is aimed at encouraging the growth of microbreweries and nanobreweries.
Attorney Brice Timmons, who is a partner in High Cotton Brewing Company, which plans to open a microbrewery this fall near Downtown Memphis, said the food requirement can be “cost prohibitive” when starting a business.
High Cotton’s primary business would be selling kegs to local bars and restaurants, but it also plans to open a taproom with limited hours. Timmons said the change in law would allow High Cotton and other start-ups to focus on brewing quality beer without having to maintain a kitchen.
“Rather than open a mediocre brewery and a mediocre restaurant, I’d rather open a good brewery and not a restaurant at all,” said Timmons, who drafted the proposed changes.
Timmons said High Cotton will partner with local food trucks, such as the Fuel Food Truck, to make sure that on nights the tasting room is open, there will be a truck outside serving food to customers.
Timmons said Memphis’ lone microbrewery, Ghost River Brewing, was also consulted about the proposed changes. Ghost River sells kegs, growlers and bottles from its dock, but has no taproom where it sells pints.
Under the proposed amendment to the city code, no brewery with a tasting room would be required to serve food or maintain kitchen facilities, as long as the brewery sells only beer brewed on site.
Also, the brewery can’t derive more than 25 percent of its gross annual income from the sale of beer for consumption on premises, and it must be closed from midnight to noon each day.
There is a public meeting on Wednesday (June 27) to discuss the proposed changes to the Memphis and Shelby County Unified Development Code, including the brewery amendments. The meeting is at Circuit Playhouse, 51 S. Cooper, from 6 to 8 p.m.
The third reading and public hearing for the UDC changes are set for July 17 at the City Council.