Mpls. OKs Taproom License; Will Surly Build There?

A new city ordinance, which follows a recent change to state law, allows breweries to sell pints of beer on site; it has prompted some speculation that Surly Brewing Company might look to build its $20 million "destination brewery" within Minneapolis city limits.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak on Wednesday signed off on a new city ordinance that allows breweries to sell pints of beer on their premises-prompting some speculation that the city could play host to Surly Brewing Company's planned $20 million “destination brewery.”

The Minneapolis ordinance creates a new type of liquor license called a taproom license. Per state law, breweries that produce no more than 250,000 barrels annually are eligible for one.

The ordinance follows a change to state law that the Minnesota Legislature approved during the last session. Several local breweries-including Brooklyn Center-based Surly and Minneapolis-based Fulton Beer-backed the change. In fact, the bill that prompted the change became widely known as the “Surly bill.”

Breweries that produce beer to be distributed to bars and restaurants didn't used to be able to sell beer on their premises, with one exception: Growlers could be sold on site if a brewery produced less than 3,500 barrels annually. But Surly, Fulton, and some others wanted to be able to sell beer commercially and on site regardless of the amount of beer they brewed.

“We're making it easier for Minnesota beer drinkers to drink Minnesota beer and create jobs here,” Rybak said in a statement. “Sales of pints on site will also grow the local beer economy by lowering the barriers for entry for new breweries, which will allow them to hit the ground running. And it complements Minneapolis' burgeoning local food economy that is creating new businesses and even more jobs.”

The City of St. Paul approved a taproom license last month and is believed to be the first Minnesota city to do so. The fact that there's now an ordinance in both Twin Cities has prompted some speculation that one of the two municipalities might be where Surly chooses to build its planned $20 million “destination brewery.” The company has said that its new brewery-which would include a restaurant, beer garden, bar, rooftop terrace, and event center-will produce up to 100,000 barrels of beer each year and will create 85 construction jobs and 150 full-time jobs.

In fact, on Wednesday, Surly said on its Facebook page: “Alright, let's build this thing! Mayor RT Rybak signs the taproom ordinance for Minneapolis.”

Surly founder and President Omar Ansari and Fulton co-founders Ryan Petz and Jim Diley were present when Rybak signed the ordinance. The Minneapolis City Council approved it on August 19.

“A great city deserves great beer, and with this ordinance, Minneapolis will become a beer destination,” City Council member Gary Schiff, who co-sponsored the ordinance, said in a statement.

Despite the change in state law that now allows taproom licenses, each municipality can decide whether to create a taproom license for breweries located within its limits.

Fulton is poised to open a brewery in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis this fall. While the company initially aimed to open the doors in September, it said earlier this week that its opening won't occur until sometime between mid-October and mid-November. The new brewery is ready for production, but the co-owners are working on obtaining the necessary federal, state, and local licenses-which will take a number of weeks.