Vancouver city council has voted in favour of loosening zoning rules to allow small breweries to serve pints of beer on-site in designated lounges.
Breweries have been allowed to sell unlimited take-away beer, but only a single draught on site in a tasting room. The new lounges would be allowed as a secondary use of the brewery space, and will be allowed to sell more than one beer to a customer.
Coun. Heather Deal said the proposal passed unanimously Tuesday night, and she's very pleased with the move to allow customers to enjoy the brewers' products quite locally.
"They were already allowed to have tasting rooms, where you can have those little tiny tasters of the different brews," she said. "Now you can actually have a small lounge… you can actually sit and have an entire pint of one, maybe even an entire pint of another one, if you want to."
Deal said the primary purpose of breweries must remain production, as they are located in industrially zoned areas that are being protected and controlled for job-creation space.
"We know that as soon as we start allowing a variety of really fun and great activities on industrial land, the value of that land goes up and it could become too expensive for industrial purposes," Deal said.
But council weighed the preservation of industrial space with the financial realities of running a small business, she said.
"We want to make sure that these craft breweries will survive."
'Going to the brewery is a big part of it'
Deal said that there are about half a dozen craft breweries operating in Vancouver, and three more coming very soon.
Conrad Gmoser, co-owner and head brewer at Brassneck Brewery, which is set to open near Main Street and 6th Avenue in a few weeks, says the change will make a huge difference to his business.
"For breweries in Vancouver to have a small amount of on-site sales, it's also going to make a go of running a brewery in a city like Vancouver where, man, it's expensive and competition is a little fierce," he said. "If you think of other beer cities, that people who love beer are really interested in, going to the brewery is a big part of it."
Josh Michnik, co-owner of 33 Acres Brewery, also welcomes the change.
"Craft brewers, we're just small businesses," he said. "These lounges will just help us afford to pay our rent."
But not everyone is pleased about the zoning changes.
"We feel it's unnecessarily restrictive," said Jeremy McElroy, a member for Campaign for Culture — an association that describes itself as dedicated to the enhancement of the social and cultural fabric of British Columbia.
Breweries have agreed to close by 11 p.m. PT, have lounges no larger than 860 square feet, and to host no more than two special events per month.
"We want these to be vibrant diverse spaces and if the breweries don't want to be past 11 p.m., they don't have to be. We are just saying the rules shouldn't stop them from that," said McElroy in an interview with Rick Cluff on The Early Edition.
Even though the city has changed the zoning rules and is taking applications, breweries will still need provincial approval for the serving lounges.