The craft beverage industry is growing in the State of Maryland, and the Charles County Economic Development Department (EDD) in collaboration with Planning and Growth Management recently proposed a zoning amendment, passed by our Board of Commissioners, that will encourage craft alcohol producers to open up new businesses in Charles County. Our Agriculture Business Development Manager, Martin Proulx, headed up that effort, so we talked to him about the new legislation and why it’s good news for the county.
Proper Zoning: The First Step
“Zoning is usually the first thing on the checklist of any business owner wanting to locate in an area,” says Proulx. “Craft beverage is a very unique industry in that there are two uses coming together. There’s the manufacturing of the product, and it also ties into hospitality and tourism, which means inviting the public to your space. So, you have a mixed industrial/commercialized use. Then, you put that into an agricultural setting and it becomes more complicated.”
Previously, wineries, breweries, and distilleries were treated as solely industrial functions (creating the product). The zoning didn’t allow for a tasting room, retail sales, tours, and public access. The new language provides for those functions.
Under Charles County’s revised zoning, craft beverage producers can make their products and welcome customers who are eager to sample the variety of craft beverages being produced throughout the state. The region has a growing number of young people who desire craft beverage, and the rural areas, farm land, and scenic landscape lend to being an ideal spot for such an industry to grow.
Tourism and Agriculture Benefits
Geographically, there are a lot of opportunities. “These businesses kind of create their own clusters, as anyone can see on a Maryland Craft Beverage Map—where you see one, you see multiple,” says Proulx. “And, they can become a great catalyst for tourism in Charles County.”
The zoning text amendment is a step in the right direction for Charles County to create an inviting culture for the craft beverage industry. It’s a value-added industry, and this type of production offers opportunities for local farmers and ag businesses. Craft beverage production requires specialty crops and other products, and Maryland is working toward a much better product because of the demand for it.
“With the growing/production side, we expect demand for ingredients and other services as well,” says Proulx. “The spent grain produced by the beer specifically can go to livestock, so it really does come full cycle. The farmers are always looking to get spent grains. The cows love them!”
Want to Start a Craft Beverage Business in Charles County? Where to Begin.
For anyone wanting to start a brewery in Charles County, the best first stop is the Economic Development Department. “For any new business,” says Proulx, “it’s important to make sure you’re asking the right questions. We’re trying to make sure we know the answers. It’s been a learning opportunity as to how these [craft beverage] businesses are regulated.”
For licensing, each industry (wine, distilling, or beer) has associations in the State of Maryland. All those organizations have meetings and stay up on all the industrial regulations. They are a good starting point for learning about federal and state licensing. When it comes to a physical location, the EDD should be your first stop.
To learn about the craft beverage industry in Charles County, contact Martin Proulx at 301-885-1340 x2630 or ProulxM@MeetCharlesCounty.com.