Bill Introduced To Cover Farm Craft Beverage Industry In Frederick County

The Council is expected to hold a hearing on it.


Frederick, Md (KM). A bill dealing with Frederick County’s fast growing craft beverage industry was introduced Tuesday to the County Council.

The measure would allow farm breweries, distilleries and wineries to set up tasting rooms and retail areas in areas zoned agriculture and resource conservation. Their size would be limited to 1500 square feet. It would also ease some of the setback requirements and parking would be provided at a rate of one per 50-square foot of space devoted to customer service, which excludes  food preparations and storage area.

“We visited a number of tasting rooms in December, considered challenges encountered by businesses that are attempting to enter the craft beverage industry,” said Steve Horn, the County’s Director of Planning and Permitting. “I think we want to be sensitive to the challenges that they’re facing.”

He also said this proposed legislation was approved by the County’s Agriculture Business Council. He said the members also supported including a requirement that the grapes, fruits and grains used in the processing of the beverages be grown on the farm. But they also said the processing itself would not necessarily be done on the farm. “This allowance is supportive of an industry trend wherein craft beverage vendors enter into contracts for off-site processing. That keeps their startup costs lower also,” said Horn.

But the Council heard some testimony against the bill on Tuesday. Tom Barse runs a craft beverage operation on his farm in Mount Airy. He called for the legislation to be pulled so that the Council can meet with representatives of the industry. “I think it has some good ideas in other ways in terms of limiting the possibility of a site plan review, easing some of the road frontage restrictions that we currently have,” he said. “But then it creates new classes of alcohol-based businesses that are in conflict or will be in conflict with state law.”

Eric Allan, who also runs a craft beverage operation, spoke out against it. “We would really feel it’s important to have our input. And that’s why we could like your consideration to pull this bill until we can all meet together and come up with something that really makes sense for our industry,” he said.

The County Council is expected to hold a hearing on this bill in the future.

Councilman Tony Chmelik had also  planned to introduce a tasting room bill to the County Council, but pulled it on Tuesday so it could be revised. The legislation would no longer require site plan approval for winery and farm brewery tasting rooms, and farm winery and farm brewery tasting rooms to classified as agri-tourism. It would also increase the size of the tasting rooms from 1500 square feet to 2000 square feet, which would  include roadside stands. In addition, the frontage requirement for farm wineries, farm breweries,  farm winery tasting rooms and farm brewery tasting rooms would be eliminated.


By Kevin McManus