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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.

Proposal would eliminate food requirement at Memphis brewery tasting rooms

June 25, 2012 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Government, Memphis

Pouring beer into a glass

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 BrewingHigh 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.

To download the proposed changes to the City Alcohol Code, click here. For more about all the UDC changes, go here.

High Cotton Brewing plans to open microbrewery near Downtown Memphis

April 25, 2012 By: mike Category: Beer in the news, Breweries, Craft beer, Memphis

Mike Lee

Mike Lee, owner of Mid-South Malts, is among the investors in High Cotton Brewing Company.

A team of investors has an option on a building in the Edge District near Downtown and plans to open a microbrewery in the space by year’s end.

High Cotton Brewing Company LLC has a contract to buy an 8,778-square-foot building at 598 Monroe, across from Kudzu’s Bar & Grill, and plans to start a craft brewing operation, according to several media reports. The building is a former auto parts distributorship.

High Cotton would be only the third brewery in Memphis after Midtown brewpub Boscos and Boscos’ sister brewery, Ghost River Brewing, a microbrewery in Downtown.

High Cotton’s partners include longtime brewer Mike Lee, owner of homebrew supply shop Mid-South Malts; Brice Timmons, a lawyer with Black McLaren Jones Ryland & Griffee, P.C.; Ryan Staggs, an engineer with Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division; and Ross Avery, a pilot with United Airlines. There is also a fifth silent partner in the venture.

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. That aspect of the business would require an amendment to the city’s alcoholic beverage ordinance and city and county zoning codes, according to The Commercial Appeal. Current rules don’t allow beer consumption in establishments that don’t serve food.

High Cotton will brew with a seven-barrel system, producing 14 kegs of beer at a time, the Memphis Business Journal reports, and plans to open with two regular beers.

We’re trying to formulate recipes that are very well-crafted and flavorful, and more geared towards the craft drinker – that’s our goal,” Lee told the Memphis Daily News. “We anticipate being very customer-friendly. We want to craft beers that people really want to drink.”

Stay tuned for more on High Cotton from FuzzyBrew. Meanwhile, what would you like to see from Memphis’ newest brewery? Leave a comment below.