Food and drink / Municipal government / Small businesses

This Newark councilman is jazzed about the city’s new microbrew policy

The city said some breweries have already expressed interest in setting up shop. Expect to see councilman Todd Ruckle out on the town.

Have a nice flight. (Photo by Flickr user Jonathan Grimes, used under a Creative Commons license)

Newark City Council just changed how (and more specifically, where) you can get your hands on craft beer and spirits in Delaware: A new city code has made it legal for beer gardens, microbreweries and craft distilleries to operate within the city limits of Newark.
During the city council meeting on Feb. 13, the council voted unanimously to amend the zoning code to allow the sale and production of alcohol in some of Newark’s zoning districts.
For Newark City Councilman Todd Ruckle, this amendment could help put the city on the map.
“It will bring Newark up to speed on the national trends,” he said. “Keeping local money in the local economy will help us grow.”
Those national trends Ruckle is talking about are no joke. According to the Brewers Association of America, microbreweries have been on the rise since 2010, with over 400 opening their doors across the country in 2015 alone. In Delaware especially, craft brewing is a big deal. Overall, the state boasts over 10 unique microbreweries along with a handful of local distilleries located across the board from New Castle to Sussex county.
Up until this point in Newark however, only brewpubs — restaurants that don’t focus solely on alcohol production and instead accentuate their food service with homemade alcohol — were allowed in the city (think Main Street’s Iron Hill Brewery).
Businesses looking to take advantage of this new change will still be subject to special-use permits and specific conditions, though. Some of these stipulations include city regulations that determine how much beer and liquor breweries and distilleries will be allowed to produce a year, as well as limitations on the allowed hours of operations.
Interestingly, the downtown area of Newark is not included in the new zoning code change, limiting potential breweries to other specified areas of the city.
Ruckle isn’t concerned about those limitations affecting the growth of the industry in Newark. He believes that even with the restrictions, the code change will turn Newark into a craft beer-lover’s destination.
“I went to Tennessee and sampled many types of moonshine at a local brewery and the place was packed,” he said. “[Tourists] spend money on local products. I expect the same for Newark.”
The code change comes at a good time for the city, and they’ve already sparked interest from prospective businesses.
According to council, there have been requests from potential brewery and distillery owners for everything from microbreweries to beer gardens, locales with and without food service, and even tasting room facilities.
For some city residents though, there are concerns surround the new zoning. Fear that University of Delaware students might use the breweries as new drinking hot spots had some of the council meeting attendees upset with the passing of the amendment.
Again, Ruckle sees little to be worried about.
“These craft breweries will be at a high price point which will target non-student residents of Newark,” he noted.
He also hinted that once these breweries open their doors, you could very well see the councilman himself out on the town.
“I personally am excited for our city and look forward myself to sampling craft products in a family atmosphere.”

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