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Harford council approves bill regarding regulations on breweries, distilleries

Contact Reporterdaanderson@baltsun.com

A bill that establishes definitions for breweries and distilleries in Harford County and allows production breweries and full distilleries to operate in all industrial zones was approved by the County Council this week.

The bill, with four amendments introduced by Councilman Chad Shrodes regarding how the square footage for farm breweries is calculated, was adopted unanimously during the council’s legislative session Tuesday. The amendments were also approved unanimously during a separate vote Tuesday.

Bill 19-015 allows production breweries and full distilleries in all three types of industrial zones in the county — commercial industrial, light industrial and general industrial.

Prior to the legislation, these types of facilities were not specifically addressed in the county’s zoning code, but were allowed, often being “scaled up” to where they most closely fit.

“The idea behind the bill was to provide a more precise definition,” for these types of businesses, Cynthia Mumby, a county spokeswoman said.

The legislation also establishes definitions in five categories, including microbreweries, production breweries, pub breweries that are part of restaurants, full distilleries and limited distilleries.

Retail sales of the products, which could be consumed either on or off the premises, would be allowed in limited distilleries, according to the bill.

Bradley Killian, planning and zoning director for Harford County, said during a June 4 public hearing on the bill that microbrewery is a new definition.

Beers and other “malt-based liquors” produced at a microbrewery could be sold for consumption on or off the premises, whereas retail sales would not be permitted in production breweries or full distilleries — both facilities can offer tours and tastings of their products, according to the bill.

“Each of these would have an appropriate [production] scale that is consistent with the state licensing,” Killian said.

Killian noted that a microbrewery falls between a large-scale production facility and “a very small accessory use to a restaurant.” Allowing production breweries in industrial zones is “simply mirroring what was previously a bottling use and placing it in the same districts.”

Shrodes said, also on June 4, that his amendments mean restrooms and storage areas would not be considered during the calculation of the square footage for a farm brewery. The area used for events, sales and tastings, limited to 2,500 square feet, and that area “will be based on the floor area devoted to customer service, excluding rest rooms and storage,” according to the amendments.

Bel Air resident Mark Moody, a co-owner of Double Groove Brewing, testified in support of the bill during the public hearing. He is working to establish the brewery, along with his business partner and wife, Lisa Moody, and their friends Craig and Donna Willig. Lisa Moody serves as finance director for the Town of Bel Air, but she stressed later that the brewing business is separate from her work with the town.

“Microbreweries are an ever-growing part of our business community, and we really need this bill in order to be able to do business in the county,” Mark Moody told the council.

He said microbreweries across the nation have become part of their communities as “a great place to meet, a great place to enjoy artisanal craft products, share good times and be of like minds,” plus provide good jobs, support area charities and increase the local tax base.

“We hope to do all of these things, and want to do those things here in Harford County, but we can only do it with the passing of this bill,” Moody said.

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