Aspen Brewing Co. loses appeal
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” You’ll be cut off at just one pint at Aspen Brewing Co. … at least for now.
The Aspen City Council on Monday shot down an appeal by brewery owners Duncan Clauss and Brad Veltman, who objected to Community Development director Chris Bendon’s land-use code interpretation.
City Council members stressed, however, that the brewers would have another chance to appeal their case March 24 at a city zoning hearing.
Community development officials were concerned that the potential “tasting room” could become a bar.
Previously, Bendon ruled that visitors to the brewery now under construction would be held to a 16-ounce (one pint) limit for beer tasting. The ruling also asks the owners not to play sporting events on tasting-room televisions.
The brewers and their attorney ” Chris Brian of Garfield and Hecht ” charged that Bendon abused his discretion in settling the matter.
The brewery sits in the Service Commercial Industrial (SCI) zone on Mill Street, near the intersection with Puppy Smith Street. The district is designed to protect small, locally serving businesses and does not allow bars and restaurants, according to city staffers.
Council members on Monday admitted that definitions in the zone were conflicting, but upheld Bendon’s decision, saying Bendon went above and beyond ” allowing an “accessory use” that would allow potential wholesale customers to sample a “flight” of beers, or four, four-ounce glasses.
The brewers plan to sell beer wholesale to area bars or to individual customers in refillable glass jugs, or “growlers.” And while the beer-tasting area only is a small part of their potential business ” Clauss estimated less than 5 percent of the volume of beer sold ” the owners said that customer tastings are vital to promoting their product.
“My clients have no interest in becoming a sports bar,” Brian said. “We don’t want to become an animal house or some fraternity party.”
Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland asked how a place that shows a game on TV and serves drinks is any different than a sports bar.
Brian countered that the tasting area is small, that the owners only will serve the beer made on-site (not wine, liquor or other beer) and would close at 9 p.m. Brian added that it was “heavy-handed” of the city to tell anyone what they can show on TV.
In the end, council members agreed that Bendon acted within his purview, but stressed that the brewers will have ample opportunity to plead their case on March 24, when SCI zoning will face a review before City Council.
“We need to reshape this,” Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland said.
Brewery supporters sporting Aspen Brewing T-shirts were barred from speaking Monday (there is no public comment during an appeal) but counsel members said everyone will have an opportunity to make their case for unlimited tasting and other guidelines at the March zoning meeting.
For now, brewery tasting area will close by 9 p.m., allow only a one-pint tasting and the owners, acting on good faith, will not attract clients by showing the big game of the night on television or create a bar atmosphere.
“We’ll be back on the 24th,” Veltman said as he left Monday’s appeal hearing.
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