Yesterday Robert Wilonsky over at the Dallas Morning News (that feels like putting a shoe on the wrong foot) reported on a fast-tracked code issue aimed at easing restrictions on Dallas microbreweries. As it stands now, these small independent brewers are relegated to "heavy industrial" zones and in order to operate are required to obtain a special use permit, which can be tedious and costly to acquire.
Permits and zoning for microbreweries previously hadn't been an issue because there weren't any. But within the past year we've seen the birth of Deep Ellum Brewing Company, Peticolas and, now, Four Corners Brewing Company. All of this is good for the city, and whereas city code usually means more restrictions, in this case addressing the issue could help clear the path and make things easier for start-ups.
Four Corners is one of the more recent breweries to enter the business locally, and they paid a $6,700 filling fee to the city to move this permitting issue to the top of the line with the Zoning Ordinance Committee. Otherwise it would have remained at the back of the line and it could have been years before the issue was addressed. Essentially, Four Corners is asking the city to create a specific classification for breweries (the city added distilleries and wineries to the list as well) and simplify the permit and building process.
Recently I spoke with Greg Leftwich of Four Corners about his motivation for investing in the fast-track, "It was twofold. If you know anything about getting permits, it's a political issue and a complicated process. Part of the reason to pay was to fix it for everyone, which is tinged with a bit of patriotism and will hopefully help the whole city.
"Additionally, Dallas is behind other cities in the state in terms of breweries," Leftwich continued. "Hopefully we'll see a blossoming of the beer culture in Dallas."
Leftwich pointed out that Austin has more than a dozen breweries and Houston about 10. Creating a beer culture (imagine multiple brewery tours -- on these bikes!) would be great for the city.
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The guys over at Deep Ellum Brewing Company are watching the issue closely and are understandably nervous about having the city fuss with the rules because (all together now) City Hall loves them some code. So much so that they have been known to strangle industries (hint: food trucks).
"We're not currently regulated by the city, instead by the state," said John Reardon of DEBC, obviously happy to have it that way. "One fear of ours is that we'll wind up with a bulleted list and more stringent regulations than we have now."
This morning the issue was discussed at the Zoning Ordinance Committee, and now the city will work on specific language for the ordinance, which they'll vote on April 5. It could reach the City Council in May.
It's always good to know that if you have an issue with city code all you have to do is write a big fat check to get it addressed.