Council To Hear Another Brewery’s Bottling Request

OCEAN CITY – Despite the Mayor and City Council holding true to the original stipulations set in place for breweries on the island, the Planning and Zoning Commission once again recommended amending the condition to allow bottling for Assawoman Bay Brewing Company as they have in the past with another applicant.

On Tuesday evening, Ocean Tap, LLC returned to the Planning and Zoning Commission asking to amend the Assawoman Bay Brewing Co., conditional use permit to allow a portable bottle system on site to be utilized to bottle beer. The brewery has been in operation since July 2014 in the 45th Street Village.

“This is a simple matter of whether or not you would recommend that this condition be eliminated from the conditional use,” Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith said. “That condition originated with the Mayor and City Council after you had given recommendation of approval for the brewery [Assawoman Bay Brewing Co.] at 45th Street Village. Part of the history of that was at that time there has been another brewery [Ocean City Brewing Co.] approved at 56th Street and their prohibition of bottling and canning of beer was established with that brewery, and when this brewery was approved they applied the same conditions.”

Being one of the first breweries in Ocean City, the Mayor and City Council approved an Ocean City Brewing Co. conditional use permit with the following conditions: grain is to be stored indoors; the grain waste container is to be kept indoors; a six-foot privacy fence and trees be planted to serve as a buffer between neighboring properties; no outside seating for the restaurant; and no canned beer produced in the brewery.

Since then Ocean City Brewing Co. has returned to the commission on several occasions asking for amendments to the conditions. Most recently they were granted approval for outdoor seating.

However, last summer the commission forwarded a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and City Council to approve a request to erect a grain silo on premise and have a portable canning/bottling operation indoors but the council voted to deny the request.

“What would make us think the Mayor and City Council have changed their mind?” Commission Chair Pam Buckley asked this week.

Attorney Pete Crosby, representing OC Tap, LLC, reported time has passed since breweries were first introduced to Ocean City.

“The brewery industry was new at the time with Ocean City Brewing Co. being one of the first, and there was a conservation and fear in how far it will go and the impact it will have on the surrounding area, how much noise will be produced,” Crosby said. “I think the city is starting to get comfortable with the concept now as people are becoming more knowledgeable of the brewing process, and bottling is a pretty routine thing.”

Commission member Lauren Taylor acknowledged if the request is approved it will open the doors for Ocean City Brewing Co. to be approved for bottling as well.

Smith explained that while Ocean City Brewing Co. will most likely return with the same request, the surroundings of the breweries differ.

“The condition did originate with 56th Street because of the concerns at that time with that location,” he said. “They have the opportunity to produce at a much larger scale because of their warehouse setting. The condition was put on there as a safe guard.”

According to Assawoman Bay Brewing Co. Brewmaster Jason Weissberg, the request for bottled brew is being heard from the customers

“They want beer to take home with them,” Weissberg said. “The majority of requests are coming from visitors that want to take something home from Ocean City, and the beer folks that come to Ocean City for the upsurge in beer culture in Ocean City. So, it has been a request that they can take a product home with them that is more stable than our growler that has a limited shelf life.”

Commission member Peck Miller made a motion to forward a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and City Council to allow bottling at Assawoman Bay Brewing Co., being limited to one bottling machine to be located on site, 300 cases a week and the operation would be reviewed after a year.

The commission voted 4-0 to approve with members Palmer Gillis, Joel Brous and Chris Shanahan absent.

Hearing of Assawoman Bay Brewing Co. approval for on-site bottling on Thursday, Joshua Shores of Ocean City Brewing Co. responded he is happy about the decision.

“We had to move our whole canning and bottling operation to Baltimore. We are also opening a new restaurant in November in Abingdon. Ocean City had been so much against us we had to move our expansion west of the bridge, which is a lot of lost revenue and jobs for Worcester County. We couldn’t wait for them to come around,” Shores said. “We were so thankful and excited that they allowed us to add outdoor seating, which we needed. I wish we could have had more support from the beginning.”