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Memphis City Council approves elimination of food requirement at brewery tasting rooms; zoning changes still in works

July 18, 2012 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Government, Memphis

Proponents of microbreweries in Memphis scored a major victory this week, and even more changes in how small breweries are regulated could be coming soon.

On Monday, the City Council approved an amendment to the city’s alcohol code that will make it easier to open a brewery with a tasting room for on-premises consumption of pints.

Previously, to open a tasting room, brewery owners had to offer meals with at least one meat and one vegetable, prepared on premises with “adequate kitchen facilities.”

The City Council voted to exempt microbreweries from the requirement to sell food, eliminating a significant expense for brewery owners.

Attorney Brice Timmons, who is part of the ownership team behind High Cotton Brewing Company, was among those who successfully lobbied for the change. High Cotton plans to open a microbrewery this fall near Downtown Memphis.

On Facebook, High Cotton Brewing celebrated the passage of the tasting room amendment.

Under the revised law, no brewery with a tasting room will 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. (Read FuzzyBrew’s previous post on this issue.)

The council’s vote on Monday will be final in two weeks when the council approves the minutes from the prior meeting.

But, according to Josh Whitehead, planning director for the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Planning & Development, even more changes in how small breweries are regulated are in the works.

Proposed changes to the Memphis and Shelby County Unified Development Code (UDC) would significantly expand the number of zoning districts that allow microbreweries.

Josh Whitehead at City Council

Josh Whitehead, planning director for the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Planning & Development, spoke to the City Council on Monday about changes in the zoning code.

Today, the zoning code considers microbreweries the same as breweries, which are limited to the industrial zoning districts, Whitehead said.

Under proposed changes, microbreweries would be permitted in office, commercial and central business district zones. In addition, microbreweries would be allowed with “special use” approval in many residential zones, as well.

Under the revised UDC, a “microbrewery” would be defined this way: “A brewery that produces no more than 15,000 barrels of beer in a year. Microbreweries may or may not include an on-site tasting room, and may or may not operate in conjunction with a bar. If operated in conjunction with a restaurant, the operation shall be considered a brewpub.”

The proposed zoning changes, which are part of a huge package of changes to the UDC, were approved Monday by the City Council.

The ordinance also requires approval of the Shelby County Commission, which will have a public hearing on the matter on Monday, July 30, at 1:30 p.m, 160 N. Main Street. The ordinance, which requires three readings, will be up for a second reading that day, as well.

For more about all the UDC changes, go here.

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