Thor Cheston, former beer sommelier at Brasserie Beck, is making progress in his bid to open his own brewpub. He’s got a name, Right Proper Brewpub. He’s got a partner, John Snedden of Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company. He’s got a potential location in the Shaw neighborhood (although he declines to name the exact site while lease negotiations are going on). He’s got a tentative opening date: late spring 2013.
What he doesn’t have is the right to sell beer to go in reuseable glass containers called growlers. Currently, the District limits that privilege to breweries with a class D manufacturer’s permit like DC Brau and Chocolate City Brewing Co.
Last December, D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) introduced a bill called the Sustainable Bottle Amendment Act of 2011. “My understanding is that it would allow growler sales by retailers like Whole Foods and D’Vines as well as people with a class C brewpub license,” commented Cheston. Its best chance for passage, he believes, is to be lumped in with a larger omnibus measure this spring.
To facilitate that end, Cheston is collecting signatures for an online petition to be sent to D.C. Council chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) and Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and David Catania (I-At Large). “Passing the Sustainable Bottle Amendment Act of 2011 would allow brewpubs to expand their market and be the final step in making Washington, DC. a city know [sic] for great beer,” the petition notes.
You can access the petition here.
As of last Friday, Cheston had collected 868 signatures. He’s aiming for 1,000. (And no, you don’t have to be a resident of the District to sign.)
The fate of Washington’s growler bill is up in the air, but other localities have been courting beermakers. North Carolina’s legislature, for instance, fast-tracked a bill last year to allow large breweries to sell beer in onsite gift shops. It was part of a successful effort to induce Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. to open its planned East Coast branch plant near Asheville.
Sierra Nevada’s plant is set to go online in 2014; New Belgium’s Asheville brewery will follow in 2015. The two breweries in tandem will create around 200 new jobs and pump more than $200 million into the state’s coffers during the construction phase.
Meanwhile, Maryland’s General Assembly in recent weeks has passed measures creating a new type of license for farmhouse breweries, and allowing Baltimore bars to sell growlers (a privilege currently accorded only to brewpubs). And Virginia’s legislature passed SB 604, a bill that would allow breweries without onsite restaurants to sell their beer for consumption on-premise.
“With more breweries from the western part of the country looking to expand to the East Coast, more favorable beer laws will certainly make Virginia more competitive in attracting $20M-$100M+ expansion projects that will create a great deal of new jobs in a rapidly growing industry,” reads the Web site for Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond.
Breweries used to be a nuisance. Now, in today’s stagnant economy, they’re a prize catch.