It’s been too long! I hope none of you have become bored at work, anxiously refreshing my blog, waiting for the newest post. There are other sites out there..
Anyway, let’s talk about location. Since my last Real Estate post, I’ve learned quite a bit. Last week, I had dinner with a good friend from college who is now a real estate agent (buy a house from Elizabeth S. at The Workman Group right now). We caught up and talked about the brewery, her new house, zoning, college stories, etc. She is really excited about helping me find a house to live in and brew out of, and I’m really excited to have such a great friend and agent helping me with my dreams. Pretty sweet deal, all around. Elizabeth gave me some great contacts for lenders, and some other ideas to get the ball rolling. I’m trying to get her on Twitter. More on this later.
I’m about to copy and paste a few long emails between myself and the TTB. Scroll to the very end for a summary if you don’t feel like reading my email. (Or just click here for the summary)
Around the same time, I emailed the TTB (Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau – former ATF) about brewing in a residential location. My email to them:
I was hoping to speak with someone about the laws and regulations behind brewery locations, specifically about operating a brewery out of a garage in Denver, Colorado. Can you point me in the right direction for who I should speak with? Thanks!
To my surprise, I got a response within three days. And I believe I sent that on a Friday! Here was their response. It’s a bit long, so if you’re only interested in reading my words, just read the first paragraph:
The Federal laws prohibit a brewery in a “dwelling house” (home) and putting a brewery in a garage is a very gray area. We may or may not approve it depending on the circumstances. You first need to run your plan by the Colorado Liquor Enforcement Division in Lakewood, Colorado and your local zoning authorities. If they will approve your brewery then you need to submit a diagram of the brewery and the property (showing where the brewery is located on the property and its relation to your house.) Also, show distances, especially the distance from the garage (brewery) to the house. Please fax the information to me. Also, let me know the decision from your state and local authorities about your plans. Just for your records, here is our general reply on obtaining a Federal brewer’s notice:
In order to produce beer, you first need to obtain a federal brewer’s notice. You don’t need to obtain a federal wholesaler basic permit if you only sell the beer your produce. If you sell beer you did not produce, then you would need to get a federal wholesaler basic permit. Let me give you our general reply on obtaining a federal brewer’s notice:
Before you can begin brewery operations, you will have to first complete the necessary forms including a brewer’s notice and bond. There will be a link at the end of this email to access the forms/information in order to apply for a Federal brewer’s notice. There is no cost for the brewer’s notice, and we try to process applications within 60 days of the date we receive them.
All alcoholic beverages must also conform to the labeling regulations of the United States. If you have labeling questions, please contact our Advertising, Labeling & Formulation Division at 1-866-927-2533 or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Their web site is: http://www.ttb.gov/labeling/index.shtml. For information on filing your labels online, click on “Labeling” on the left side of our homepage.
The regulations governing the labeling and distribution of alcoholic beverages can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations, Alcohol, Tobacco Products and Firearms, Title 27 on our web site at: www.ttb.gov. When you pull up our home page, click on “Code of Federal Regulations” under “Laws & Regulations.” Part 25 discusses beer and Part 7 discusses labeling and advertising of malt beverages. Anyone who manufactures malt beverages must file TTB Form 5630.5(d), Alcohol Dealer Registration, before commencing operations. The payment associated with Special Occupational Tax has been repealed for manufacturers, importers/wholesalers and retailers of beverage alcoholic products, but record keeping and registration requirements remain.
You should also contact each State for information relative to its licensing requirements. To find out more about individual state laws, on our web site at: www.ttb.gov click on “National Revenue Center” on the left side of our homepage, then “State Alcohol Beverage Control Boards” under “Resources.” This will give you the Alcoholic Beverage Commission locations for each state. You must be in compliance with them, your local zoning authority and the federal government before commencing operations.
For information on federal excise tax rates, on our home page www.ttb.gov scroll down to “Information by Topic,” then on the “Taxes” line, click on “Tax and Fee Rate.”
Also, please submit a legible photocopy of the Driver’s License or official State ID card of the primary contact person who will be interviewed by phone by TTB regarding the application. This ID must be of one of the officers listed on your application.
You also need to register with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the Bioterrorism Act. For information on this, go to their website at www.fda.gov and click on “Food”, then “Facility Registration” which is under “FDA Industry Systems.” You should also click on “Bioterrorism” located at the very bottom of our homepage at www.ttb.gov.
Here is a link to the forms/information in order to apply for a Federal brewer’s notice: http://www.ttb.gov/beer/brewery_brewpub_packet.shtml. Thank you.
If you skipped most of that, it’s ok. A lot of the information I already knew. I didn’t know the Bioterrorism part. Good to know. The uplifting part (I’m generally a cynic but a total optimist with this stuff) was that brewing in a garage is a very gray area. That means it’s possible! It’s not 100% illegal, it’s just not always approved. So, yay! I’ve met with an agent at the office in Lakewood, and while it was a few months ago, I thought he had said the TTB has to inspect first, and then they’ll approve. So at this point, my main concern is that I’d buy a house, order the equipment, set everything up, and then get denied. That would be an expensive setback. Game ender, really. I emailed Bob back:
Thank you so much for the quick and informative response! I really appreciate you taking the time to look at my issue. I had made contact with the Lakewood office a while ago, but will do so again now that I’m further along with my plans. Do you have any tips or examples of similar situations that were approved? I don’t own a house currently, and plan to buy one for this purpose.. I’d hate to buy a house, get the brewery set up, get it inspected, and then get denied. That wouldn’t be much fun at all. Thanks!
And yes, I put a smiley face in an email to a government official. It’s about beer, c’mon! Anyway, within 12 hours I had a response. Obviously the TTB isn’t part of the efforts to stave off Bacon Lung, or Swine Flu, or whatever it’s called.
The Federal laws/regulations don’t allow operating a brewery in a home, but a garage is a very gray area. If the garage is attached to the home, then it will, in all probability, not be approved. If it is a detached garage, then we may allow it depending on the circumstances. I would not want to see you buy a house for the purpose of operating a brewery and we deny you a brewer’s notice at the Federal level. What you may want to do is submit a diagram to us showing the exact layout of the brewery, a diagram of the entire property showing where the garage (brewery) is in relation to your house, the distance from the brewery (garage) to the house, and documentation from the Colorado Liquor Enforcement Division and local zoning authorities approving your brewery plan. If they won’t allow you to operate a brewery according to the plans you submitted to them, then we won’t allow you to either. If you decide to submit this information to us before you send us a formal brewer’s notice, please fax the requested information to [a fax number]. We can then review it and make a decision. Thank you.
- The TTB is very responsive! I’m actually excited to have such a fast responding and personal branch of the government to work with. If I must pay taxes and follow rules, at least I can get a person on the phone.
- My plans to start a small garage-sized brewery in Denver is possible, at least in the government’s eye.
- The government doesn’t want me to buy a house if I don’t have to.
- I need to talk to someone about zoning in and around Denver.
- I need to talk to someone about brewing in and around Denver.
- The brewer’s license, zoning requirements, and federal licensing need to all happen concurrently, and hopefully before I buy a house.
My next big step, and pretty much the step that must happen before anything else: Speak with someone in the zoning office. Preferably someone who likes beer. Anyone know someone like that?
For anyone in the same place as me – i.e. opening a brewery, in a garage, etc. – let me know if you want more details on the legal stuff. I have some more detailed information that isn’t on here yet.