Berlin Supports Microbrewery’s License Request

BERLIN — Changes to state law will be required for Berlin to gain its first microbrewery, and the Mayor and Council threw their support behind the efforts on Monday.

Bryan Brushmiller, owner of Burley Oak Brewing Company on Old Ocean City Blvd., appeared before the council to ask for its endorsement of a proposal to adjust state law to allow Class D tavern licenses to be issued in Berlin. Additionally, the law would have to be further tweaked to permit microbreweries to operate in town with that Class D license, a situation already in place in Prince George’s County.

Currently, Brushmiller would be forced to obtain a Class B license, a restaurant designation which would require his business to sell at least 50 percent food in addition to beer. Brushmiller informed the council that is not the route he was hoping to take with the microbrewery.

“Honestly, I don’t want to be in the restaurant business,” he remarked.

However, under the existing law, if Brushmiller decided not to obtain a Class B license he would not be able to sell any alcohol on the premise, which he believes would go against the fundamental point of having a microbrewery.

Mayor Gee Williams agreed.

“It’s pretty standard,” Williams said, adding that when people took tours of microbreweries, they expect to be able to purchase beer to take home with them. He joked that it wouldn’t be fair to have it so that people could “look but not be able to touch.”

“The bottom line is, when you go to a microbrewery, you should be able to buy beer,” said Williams.

The rest of the council agreed, especially since Brushmiller was asking for minor changes to the law.

“They’d just have to add a few words,” said Williams.

While the council itself could not affect the law, its support was needed before State Senator Jim Mathias would be ready to attempt to change the state code.

Williams was optimistic about seeing satisfactory results for Brushmiller.

“This is the first step,” he said.

Some members of the council wondered if what they were doing would affect the rest of Worcester County. Williams explained that it would not and that Berlin was the only targeted area.

“We’re not trying to impact anybody else,” he said.