Call it a brewed awakening.
A new microbrew owner in Maple Ridge tried to get a lounge licence, but was blocked by city hall.
When Carlos de Ibarrola opened Ridge Brewing Company on Dewdney Trunk Road in July, it was the 12th microbrew to open in B.C. this year, and there are now 103 craft breweries in the province.
“It has been exploding,” de Ibarrola said of the craft beer business. “It’s a beer revolution.”
Many of the craft brews are in Vancouver neighbourhoods like Main Street, Commercial Drive and Hastings Street.
“East Vancouver is now known as ‘Yeast Vancouver,’” said the Port Moody resident.
He brought some of that brown beer culture to Maple Ridge during the summer, joining nearby Maple Meadows Brewing, which opened in March.
Ridge Brewing is a mid-sized craft beer operation, and he and three employees are capable of producing 6,600 litres, with a batch taking about four weeks. The new brand is already on tap in local pubs and restaurants, he’s getting kegs to New Westminster and other cities, and his bottles are being shipped to liquor outlets that sell craft beer. This is in addition to the product he sells on site.
The Liquor Control and Licensing Branch already allows him to have a tasting room with his manufacturer’s licence, which permits him to sell his product on site, but customers can only consume 12 ounces each there.
A lounge licence would allow him to sell more of his own beer, as well as outside products – such as a glass of wine or a pina coloda.
That’s what he asked council to endorse as he applies to the branch, but city hall is saying no so far.
Coun. Gordy Robson said the business should be moved.
“I love the concept, and I think it would be a great addition to our downtown, but not in this building, and in this location, so I can’t support it,” said Robson.
But de Ibarrola said the business could not be easily moved – not for less than $100,000 at a minimum, even if he could find a downtown location that could accommodate his high vats and the rest of his operation. He has already invested in piping, electrical upgrades, concrete flooring a cold room and more.
Parking was raised as an issue, as de Ibarrola applied for licensing for 50 seats. There are dance and karate studios in the same industrial complex, and at 3 p.m. the parking lot gets packed.
The brewer doesn’t necessarily need that many seats, but says there is more than enough parking available now. In Vancouver, businesses function with just on-street parking, he points out, and people sometimes have to park down the street.
He doesn’t see how councillors can compromise his business to benefit others.
“It’s only fair – if our clients have to find parking, so should theirs.”
Coun. Craig Speirs supported the application, calling the microbrew “a very high-end situation.”
He proposed council defer the matter until it had more information about the process, and whether the applicant would consider reducing the number of parking spaces.
“I don’t want to throw this out,” said Speirs.
But council passed a motion to not endorse the licence application.
De Ibarrola said he will consider changing the proposal and resubmitting it.