Architect Says: Find the Right Brewery Property

Starting a new brewery or pub is the dream of many a home brewer.  The location of a new brewery and how much work will be required to get it up and running can make or break any new venture.  With many options out there and conflicting requirements, where do you start?  A good first step is knowing your business goals and how they fit into zoning and land use requirements.

What Kind of Business
Breweries and brew pubs are different animals, both operationally and as defined by city codes.  Brewers need to know what kind of business they want to operate, specifically is a pub or restaurant part of the project?  Zoning and building codes classify projects by use or occupancy.  Brewing and distributing for off-site consumption only is an industrial use and factory occupancy.  Having a bar and seating area to sell beer for onsite consumption is likely a retail / sales service use and assembly occupancy.  These distinctions are important for zoning and building codes.

Zoning and Allowable Uses
Industrial areas are popular locations for new breweries.  Rent tends to be less and large open manufacturing spaces are ideal for brewing.  Industrial zones are a good fit for breweries, however, they may have size limitations for pub or restaurant uses.  For example in Portland an IG1 (General Industrial 1) zone allows for only one commercial use (retail or office) per property and a maximum of 3,000 square feet (not including the brewing area).  The presence of any other tenants on the property running office or retail uses can make your new pub un-approvable for permit.  One good option is to go the tasting room route, a smaller space (typically less than 500 square feet) without food service.  A tasting room is an accessory use to the brewery and therefore considered industrial.

Change of Use
The type of business that occupied the space before you is also important.  If the previous business was in manufacturing and you want to have a pub or restaurant you may need to go through a Change of Use process.  The purpose is to make the building safer for increased occupancy – more folks in a restaurant than a factory.  A Change of Use could require a seismic upgrade to the building and/or installation of a sprinkler system, both of which can add significant cost.  Again, reducing the area of the pub space can help eliminate some requirements.

Take the Time to Do it Right
Many more factors go into property selection but these are the first two I look at when helping my brewery clients. Being able to eliminate unsuitable properties from consideration will save you time and headaches. Knowing some basic zoning rules and enlisting the knowledge of design professionals at this early stage can help you open your doors sooner and focus on what you do best, brewing great beer!  Cheers.

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