The purpose of this check list is to help prospective brewers
(in particular brewpubs or microbrewery/bars) avoid some of the traps we've
encountered during this project. It is not intended to be a complete listing
of things to watch for, just a few practical issues worth investigation before
putting pen to paper (and hand in wallet).
A listing of other sources of information are included on this page as they come to light.
We hope it helps you save a little time, effort and money in the early stages of your commercial brewery setup.
We'll be updating this page as more of these issues come to light. If you can think of any traps we've not included, feel free to let us know so we can include them on this page.
Is the location suitable for a brewery?, i.e.,
Can the building be rezoned for use as a brewery?
Is the building in an incorporated city/town? If not, you will have to deal with the county over a number of city issues. The county may have a different agenda to that of the city/town you are in, they will certainly not treat your project with the same interest the city might. Either way, support from the community is essential in a small city/town to keep the project moving.
The zoning department can also probably warn you if you're moving to a 'whinge spot'. It only takes one complaint to turn your 6-8 week application to a 4-12 month ordeal.
Is the building up to code:
This has been the biggest trap for us. In many cases, that determination rests in the hands (at the discretion) of your inspector. It would be worth contacting these agencies to determine what they think needs change. Do not simply assume that the building is up to code simply because it was 'signed off' recently and no code changes have occured: the only thing that has to change is an inspector (or your rapport with an inspector). So don't just talk to someone in the department, speak to YOUR inspectors.
You'll also want to ensure there are no outstanding permits or violations. It could be the result of the smallest job ... years ago. Although the work was done, and may have been signed off, it's their files that are important. The building department will not accept plans for a new job until all the earlier jobs/violations are cleared. It can be a frustrating discovery when you're standing at the desk to submit your plans.
Take in a set of plans to your building/planning department, talk to someone with pull, tell them what you intend to do, find out what they want you to do and get it in writing. If you can't get it in writing you're talking to the wrong person. If you don't get it in writing you can expect the game to change before the final whistle.
When do you order your equipment?
Just as you don't want a lack of equipment to hold up your permits, you probably don't want it sitting idle while you wait for permits.
Does your equipment have the capacity to return a profit?
How much support will the seller/manufacturer offer with financing/setup/advice?
Are you willing to spend the first few months buried in paper work?
Micro Brewery or Brewpub?
Some studies show there is a distinct difference in these markets, your business plan should help you decide the best choice for you:
How do you plan to make your money: On-sale or Off-sale?
If you have an 'on-sale' license, why not have your recipes contract brewed while you wait for your permits?
Contact as many local breweries as possible: they know the score on the local authorities.
Try to deal with officials who have handled projects similar to your own.
Make copies (or get copies) of all submissions to any Dept./Authority.
Don't throw anything away!
Don't be discouraged. We have it on good authority that your second brewery will be a breeze!