Proposed Zoning Changes Could Open County to Beer Manufacturers

Interested in starting a craft beer company in Howard County? New zoning regulations may help.

With craft beer bars like Victoria Gastro Pub, T-Bonz, Frisco Tap House, Ale House Columbia, Judge's Bench and Second Chance Saloon invigorating the pub scene in Howard County, it's hard to imagine how it could get any better for a beer lover in the county.

But how about a craft beer manufacturer calling Howard County home?

Proposed changes in industrial districts under the recently-released Comprehensive Zoning Plan would open up Howard County to brewing companies.

The changes would allow manufacturers of less than 5,000 barrels of "fermented malt beverages" in light industrial districts and manufacturers of more than 5,000 barrels in heavy industrial districts.

"We allow breweries, and have for a long time, as long as they're an accessory to a restaurant," said Robert Lalush, planning supervisor for the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning. "We've never had a straight manufacturing facility."

For example, many readers might think of the brewery at Ellicott Mills Brewing Company, which can be seen on Main Street in Ellicott City, or the one at Frisco Tap House and Brewery, which is showcased at the front of the restaurant.

Those breweries were allowed under previous zoning law because they are attached to a restaurant. The new zoning changes would open up the county to brewers who would like to manufacture larger amounts of beer.

"We've had quite a number of people who are interested in doing something like that, but can't because there's not a category that allows it," said Lalush.

Previously, Howard County zoning law prohibited manufacturing alcoholic beverages under food and drink production uses, according to Lalush. The proposed changes would allow manufacturing of malt beverages as a matter of right in industrial zones.

The Comprehensive Zoning Plan was released in February. Currently, it is under review by the Planning Board and then will go to the County Council for approval.

If approved, it's possible we could start seeing more Howard County beer manufacturers popping up. In fact, Frisco is beginning to look for a place to increase production of their Push brand of beer, while using their restaurant micro-brewery as a place to experiment on new recipes, according to General Manager Alex Taylor.

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