An Aspen bar or a brewery? |

An Aspen bar or a brewery?

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” How much beer do you need to consume to determine whether you like it enough to buy it?

That’s the question the Aspen City Council discussed for more than two hours Monday when it pondered whether the Aspen Brewing Co. should be able to sell more than 16 ounces of beer in its tasting room.

The council was expected to make a decision on whether it would limit the new brewery on how much beer it can sell for on-site consumption, but it continued the matter until April 28 when it will make amendments to the laws governing the Service/Commercial/Industrial (SCI) zone.

The Aspen Brewing Co. opened its doors last week on North Mill Street, located in the SCI zone, which was designed to protect small, locally serving businesses.

The City Council last month upheld community development director Chris Bendon’s January land-use code interpretation that bars and restaurants are not allowable uses in the SCI zone, and allowing customers to consume more than 16 ounces could open up the possibility that the brewery could become a bar.

But Duncan Clauss and Brad Veltman, co-owners of the brewery, said they have no intention of it being a bar and their tasting room is only a venue for customers to sample their product before purchasing it ” similar to a vineyard.

The council appeared to lean toward keeping the 16-ounce rule in effect. Mayor Mick Ireland said there might be no practical way to enforce the law anyway, since the brewery operates with a manufacturing/wholesale license, meaning it doesn’t follow state or city liquor laws.

However, the brewery’s attorney, Chris Brian of Garfield and Hecht, said his clients would be willing to follow local liquor laws if it meant there would be no limitation on consumption ” outside of what the law allows.

Brian also told the council that he and his clients agree with city staff’s recommendation that because the code regulating breweries in the SCI zone is vague and can be interpreted openly, unlimited consumption should be allowed.

But the law should be rewritten so there is no room for interpretation in the future, city staff said.

“Staff’s position is that we recognize the language was loose,” said Ben Gagnon, special projects manager for the city of Aspen. “Mea culpa on staff’s part.”

Brian argued that the brewery needs to have no government regulation on consumption in order to survive financially because it must properly sell its product to the public.

“When the brewery applied, there was no mention of the 16-ounce rule,” he said. “Had there been, they would not have applied.”

As it stands, customers are allowed only 16 ounces, which permits a sampler of four four-ounce beers, or two eight-ounce glasses, or one pint.

Council members Steve Skadron and Jack Johnson said they didn’t understand why customers would need more than that to be able to make a distinction between the different brews.

Ireland agreed.

“I think there is a point that you can’t tell the difference,” he said.

The brewers plan to sell beer wholesale to area bars and to individual customers in refillable glass 64-ounce jugs, or “growlers.” And while the beer-tasting area only is a small part of their potential business, the owners said that customer tastings are vital to promoting their product.

“We are trying to promote this craft we care about,” Clauss said.