The debate over serving pretzels in Portland breweries has taken a new twist.

City officials this week reversed a previous determination that breweries located in industrial zones could not sell prepackaged snacks in their tasting rooms.

The move will allow Allagash Brewing Co. to begin selling snacks from Portland Fruit and Nut Co., Coastal Maine Popcorn and Maine Vintage Kitchen as soon as next week. The request to sell snacks to beer tourists was made so the brewery can help temper the effects of alcohol on customers who might spend an afternoon visiting the half-dozen breweries on Industrial Way.

“We’re just really happy and really grateful they were willing to work with us,” said Jill Perry, the brewery’s retail manager. “This industry is growing so fast and there are so many changes coming at (city officials) from all directions. There are some things that have been in place for a long time that they haven’t looked at.”

Allagash was in the process of appealing the Nov. 3 zoning determination when city officials recommended tabling action by the Zoning Board of Appeals last month so it could re-evaluate what should be considered ancillary or accessory uses to breweries located in an industrial zone. Beer makers commonly sell T-shirts, pint glasses and decals, but a zoning administrator deemed those sales were illegal as well.

The city is now developing a new list of ancillary and accessory uses for breweries, which would permit the sale of snacks and swag.


After becoming aware of the ruling in November, City Manager Jon Jennings said he directed staff to be “a bit more flexible” in its interpretation, as staff worked on developing its new list of ancillary uses.

The Zoning Board of Appeals was scheduled to take up Allagash’s appeal Thursday, but the city’s reversal prompted the beer maker to withdraw it.


With the snack issue resolved, the city is turning its attention to creating a new license for breweries, distilleries and wineries. Currently, these businesses only require a state-level license to manufacture and sell samples of their products, while restaurants and bars need additional licenses from the city.

As proposed, the new license would cost $500. The fees levied on restaurants and bars range from $702 for a nonprofit liquor license to $2,216 for a restaurant lounge to $2,642 for a Class A lounge license.

The lower fee reflects the fact that breweries, distilleries and wineries can sell only their own alcoholic beverages and are not preparing food on-site.


Janice Gardner, the city’s business license administrator, said in a Feb. 1 memo to the City Council’s Health and Human Services Committee, which will take up the proposal Tuesday, that these establishments are beginning to function like bars and should have some sort of licensing requirement.

“Breweries, wineries, and distilleries are now destinations for consumers to drink at their leisure, consume food from food vendors, and listen to bands,” Gardner said. “This business model closely resembles traditional restaurants and bars. In the interest of fairness, the City Clerk’s Office believes licensing breweries, wineries and distilleries is appropriate.”


Heather Sanborn, the co-owner and director of business operations for Rising Tide Brewing Co. in East Bayside, said most breweries are open to the idea of getting a special license, but some are concerned about how the new license requirement could affect breweries already in operation.

“I think there is a very cautious acceptance of the license,” Sanborn said. “We’re concerned about whether there might be unintended consequences.”

The state’s licensing fees for breweries, wineries and distilleries range from $50 to $1,000 a year, depending on the scale of production.

Sanborn said the brewing community is carefully following Portland’s licensing proposal, as well as the city’s efforts to define appropriate ancillary uses in industrial zones.

“These two things are happening at the same time and both could result in the imposition of an additional restriction on how businesses operate and have been operating for many years,” she said. “So far, the process has been good. I think the city is listening to us and taking it under advisement.”


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