Brewers’ Law 101: Local Zoning Approval

ZoningThe use of a specific premises for the manufacturer or retail sale of alcoholic beverages is governed by the local zoning authority having jurisdiction over the location of the premises. The local zoning authority is generally charged with enforcing local zoning and land use ordinances and regulations and issuing permits for uses that require specific approval.

Zoning and land use ordinances, regulations, and procedures vary from municipality to municipality. Generally, zoning laws prohibit or limit manufacturing activities in certain zones and prohibit or limit retail activities in other zones. In addition, zoning laws may prohibit the retail sale of alcoholic beverages within a certain distance of churches, schools, residential areas and/or other alcoholic beverage retailers. Confirming that a desired premises can be used for the manufacture and retail sale of alcoholic beverages is an important preliminary consideration.

In most cases, the manufacture or retail sale of alcoholic beverages will require a conditional use approval. The local zoning authority will usually have a specific application form to be used for this purpose. The application will require information about the intended use of the premises, including hours of operation and impact on the local community. In most cases a site plan must accompany the conditional use application, and in some cases a survey might also be required. The application must often be accompanied by a filing fee.

Approval of the conditional use application may require the principals of the applicant to attend a meeting with local government officials. In some cases, a public hearing might be required for approval.

The best way to understand the local zoning requirements and approval process is to meet directly with the zoning office to discuss the applicant’s plans.

The local zoning office must sign Section 5 of the ABT’s Application for New Alcoholic Beverage License for both the manufacturing license (CMB, AMW, or DD) and the retail license (1COP, 2COP, or 4COP). By signing, the zoning office is confirming that the brewery and/or taproom or tasting room complies with local zoning ordinances and regulations. In particularly, the signing zoning official should indicate whether approval is given for outdoor use.

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