Calgary brewery's patio opens after 11-month battle against 'red tape'

After 11 months of battling what its co-founders describe as municipal "red tape," a Calgary brewery finally receives approval to open an outdoor patio.

'City hall got back to work,' says Tool Shed Brewing Company co-founder Graham Sherman

Graham Sherman, co-founder of Tool Shed Brewing Company, raises a glass as the brewery's patio opens to the public on Monday. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

After 11 months of battling what its co-founders described as municipal "red tape," a Calgary brewery finally received approval Monday to open an outdoor patio.

City inspectors approved the application Monday, it was quickly approved by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission shortly after, and the Tool Shed Brewing Company's patio opened to the public at 2 p.m. 

"City hall got back to work," said brewery co-founder Graham Sherman.

"They came in and saw what had happened over the weekend, and you cannot ignore that this city erupted with stories of other businesses that are going through the same thing, examples of bureaucratic red tape that I think we are all going through on the municipal level."

Sherman said that while it's great to have it open, it's a much larger issue.

"It almost sucks that this is what it took to get this patio open after 11 months and thousands and thousands of dollars spent."

Andi Kowalski tears down a sign calling for action on getting the patio approved outside the Tool Shed Brewing Company, at 801 30th St. N.E. in Calgary. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

The city had no concrete answers as to why Tool Shed's application seemingly fell through the cracks — but officials say they're working on a new online system to co-ordinate applications to hopefully get approvals pushed through more quickly.

"We've learned very clearly from those that we serve that we want to help small businesses get up and operating," said Kevin Griffiths, director of Calgary building services. 

Griffiths said the new system, which will be up in July, will put all the documents a business owner needs in one place, including those for building, development and trade permits, and for business licences. It will also provide more of a guiding hand from city staff, as opposed to leaving the onus entirely on the business owner to push the process forward. 

Andi Kowalski, office manager at Tool Shed Brewing Company, officially opens the patio Monday afternoon. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

"We're taking a look at it from the customer's perspective rather than simply looking at what approvals they need. We think that will dramatically change the experience because we do appreciate that for many this is unfamiliar territory," he said. "There will be several avenues to help keep this moving."

Sherman said he's glad to hear the city is working on a system to help business owners like himself.

"We want to see that system change in a way that is innovative … if we get that progress alone, huge win."

With files from Anis Heydari