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Montgomery Council cuts costs to start new breweries, wineries and distilleries

Council Vice President Hans Riemer’s latest initiative builds on success in supporting local craft production

ROCKVILLE, MD., May 17, 2017—The Montgomery County Council approved the Fiscal Year 2018 budget for Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), which includes a key reform promoting the local production of alcohol proposed by Vice President Hans Riemer.

Local producers of alcohol in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will now be exempt from the system development charge (SDC) generally imposed on every applicant for new or increased WSSC service from the bi-county agency. Council Vice President Riemer was the primary sponsor of the initiative from Montgomery County.

The councils of both counties have created exemptions from SDC charges for purposes benefiting the public, including for affordable housing, revitalization projects, senior housing and biotechnology research and manufacturing facilities. As part of the revitalization exemption, the local alcohol production exemption seeks to promote the growing industry of locally produced alcohol that provides good paying jobs and investment in the community.

“My goal is to make Montgomery County the best place in the region to start a brewery, winery or distillery,” said Vice President Riemer. “Fitting out a new beverage manufacturing facility often requires new larger pipes because alcohol production itself has high water needs. These connections can cost tens of thousands of dollars. By exempting alcohol production from the WSSC system development charge, we will lower startup costs for new breweries, wineries and distilleries.”

The County’s efforts to open the doors to the craft industry, initiated through the County’s Nighttime Economy Task Force spearheaded by Councilmember Riemer, have resulted in entrepreneurs coming in to the County to establish new businesses. These efforts include:

  • Allowing craft brewers to sell directly to stores and restaurants without going through a middleman / warehouse distributor (the County’s Department of Liquor Control).
  • Increasing the amount of beer that craft brewers can sell per year to customers on location.
  • Clarifying zoning rules to allow craft distilleries to locate in urban and light industrial areas, where they were not previously allowed.
  • Allowing wineries (and farms) to host food trucks—areas where they were previously prohibited.
  • Easing regulations on the sale of beer and wine growlers.
  • Allowing wineries to also sell beer on their premises.
  • Repealing distance requirements that breweries could be located from churches and schools.
  • Extending hours of operation for alcohol licensees to 2 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
  • Reducing the food to alcohol ratios for restaurants, allowing them to get more revenue from alcohol sales.

Montgomery County is currently home to at least seven breweries: Brookeville Beer Farm (Brookeville), Denizens Brewing (Silver Spring), Gordon Biersch (Rockville), Growlers Brew Pub (Gaithersburg), Rock Bottom Brewery (Bethesda), Seven Locks Brewing (Rockville) and Waredaca Brewing (Laytonsville). Wineries in the County now include the Olney Winery, the Rockland Farms Winery (Poolesville), Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard (Dickerson) and the Urban Winery (Silver Spring). The County’s only distillery is Twin Valley Distillers.

Several of these businesses opened in recent years as State and County laws have been modernized to reflect the rising interest among residents for craft beer, wine, and spirits.

“The reforms we have pursued in recent years have made the County much friendlier to local production,” Councilmember Riemer said. “Our new breweries and wineries are already having a tremendous impact by revitalizing areas in our urban, industrial, suburban and agricultural communities. The culture is just taking off, and the potential is great.”

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