90-day alcohol ban waived for proposed Mount Airy restaurant-brewery

August 10, 1994|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Sun Staff Writer

Can a microbrewery survive without serving beer?

The answer is no, according to the Carroll County Liquor Board, which voted yesterday to allow the owners of a proposed microbrewery in Mount Airy to serve alcohol before completing 90 days of operation strictly as a restaurant.

The decision marks the first time the board has waived its 90-day regulation and the first time it has considered an application for a restaurant-microbrewery.

A. Reid Allison III, a Seattle lawyer who wants to open the county's first microbrewery in the old Mount Airy firehouse, argued that he would have difficulty obtaining financing for his project if he had to abide by the 90-day rule.

"We can't hold ourselves out as a microbrewery without the ability to manufacture and sell beer," Mr. Allison told the Liquor Board yesterday.

"We want to have the elemental ability to manufacture beer on the premises."

Initially, board members expressed reluctance to grant Mr. Allison a waiver, saying it would be unfair to other county restaurants that had followed the 90-day rule.

The board adopted the rule in 1992 to make sure restaurants are not actually bars.

"How do I know you're not going to end up to be a tavern serving beer, potato chips and pretzels?" board Chairman Russell Mayer asked Mr. Allison.

Board members seemed to change their views after hearing testimony from Mr. Allison's supporters, including Mount Airy Mayor Gerald R. Johnson, town planner Teresa Bamberger and town Councilman Robert Mead.

They testified that the microbrewery would help revitalize downtown Mount Airy, where 15 percent to 20 percent of the buildings are vacant.

"We feel the project will be a tremendous benefit to Mount Airy," Mr. Johnson told the board. "The firehouse has been vacant for two years, and this is the first viable business to come in and say, 'We'd like to use the building.' "

The board granted the license to Mr. Allison with some conditions attached.

With the license, Mr. Allison may sell alcohol only when he is serving full-course meals. In addition, the board said Mr. Allison may not begin to serve alcohol until an hour before the kitchen opens and must stop serving an hour after the kitchen closes.

Board members Russell Mayer and John Bucheister voted to grant the liquor license, and Romeo Valianti voted against it. Mr. Valianti said he was opposed to placing any time restrictions on Mr. Allison.

One person, Charlotte H. Garmer of Hampstead, testified against the microbrewery at yesterday's hearing, saying the county is "over-saturated" with alcohol.

Mr. Allison and his wife, Julie, have signed a sales contract with the Mount Airy Fire Department to buy the old firehouse. Lilajh Allison of Westminster, Mr. Allison's mother, will be part-owner of the microbrewery.

To proceed with plans for the Mount Airy Firehouse Grill and Brewing Co., Mr. Allison must also apply for a microbrewery license from the state comptroller's office. State law requires a restaurant on the brewery premises and limits the amount of beer the brewery may produce.

Mr. Allison plans to start out brewing 600 to 800 barrels of beer annually and will offer three types of beer.

He said it will be at least six months before the microbrewery opens.

The Allisons are former residents of Mount Airy and plan to return to live in the town to run the microbrewery.

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