3 men want to open micro-brewery pub in Howard

January 10, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Staff Writer

Three Maryland businessmen want to establish what might be Howard County's first restaurant that legally brews and serves its own beer, if the group can win approval for the license from state legislators and county officials.

Though no site has been picked for the restaurant and brew pub, Mark Gibson, a 32-year-old Columbia resident and one of the three partners in the venture, said the possibilities include the old Savage Mill and the Freestate Development in Savage, which is under construction off U.S. Route 1.

"We're all lifelong Maryland residents and we'd like to do something in Howard County," said Mr. Gibson, an economist. "We're all young hope-to-be entrepreneurs."

Mr. Gibson is joined by Jeff O'Neill, 25, an Ellicott City resident and finance director for a private firm, and Brett Menge, 29, an accountant and Kensington resident.

The group approached state Del. Martin G. Madden, a District 13B Republican, and state Sen. Thomas M. Yeager, a District 13 Democrat, several weeks ago about the proposal, which would require state legislation allowing micro-brewing pubs in Howard County.

Mr. Madden and Mr. Yeager plan to take such a bill before the county's nine General Assembly members Jan. 19. A public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 1, and the bill then would be introduced to the full General Assembly. Before a county liquor board can award a license to a business, the state first must make the license available to that county, Mr. Madden explained.

"All we're doing is creating a license," Mr. Madden said of his legislation. "Who it would be given out to would be up to the county."

If the bill passes, Mr. Gibson and his partners would be able to brew beer and sell it to patrons, who could consume it on or off premises. The partners also could sell their beer to a wholesaler, but they would not be able to sell the beer to a retailer.

Mr. Gibson said a group of investors is backing the project, which would include a $200,000 brewing system.

Though the legislation would permit production of up to 10,000 barrels per year, Mr. Gibson said the group is planning a restaurant and brewing operation with a capacity of 1,500 to 3,000 barrels per year.

If approved by state and county legislators, the legislation would allow a Howard County micro-brewery and restaurant to open after Oct. 1.

A micro-brewing facility has some support from County Councilman Charles C. Feaga, a 5th District Republican.

"I think it would be a successful venture," Mr. Feaga said. "I certainly would want to know the details, but right now, I look favorably on it. It would be source of revenue for the county."

Mr. Feaga said he does not recall the county ever having a legal brewery, although "There was a great deal of bootlegging in the area during the Prohibition."

According to the Maryland comptroller's office, the state also once had many small brew pubs that produced distinctive, quality beers. Many closed because of Prohibition, World War II and the mass marketing of beer.

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