Microbreweries might be added to the list of allowable uses in Royal Palm Beach’s commercial retail areas.
At the Aug. 18 meeting of the Royal Palm Beach Village Council, Vice Mayor Jeff Hmara said that at recent strategic planning sessions, council members and staff had discussed novel ways to revitalize run-down shopping centers.
“We talked about some fairly creative things,” Hmara said, mentioning that Councilwoman Jan Rodusky talked about “maker space,” where artists and artisans would create their own products onsite for sale.
“I think the idea is to utilize space that normally is just retail space to some more active way, some more engaged way,” Hmara said. “Whether it be individuals doing paintings physically there, as well as selling the paintings, or sculpture or other artwork, or other creative craft activities, it seemed like something that would revitalize old shopping centers.”
Hmara noted that they had also talked about “entertainment centers.”
“That is something that might give residents of Royal Palm Beach and the western communities an option short of having to go all the way east to get to CityPlace,” he said. “Not that we duel with CityPlace, but that we have a collection of unique, interesting restaurants, maybe even a movie theater, certainly maybe boutique shops, a unique attraction that would be something currently different than what we have in the western communities.”
Hmara said he was approached recently by a Royal Palm Beach couple who had spoken with the village planner about opening a microbrewery and tasting room.
“Unfortunately, our code does not permit that at this point in time,” Hmara said, noting that other municipalities permit such uses. “They showed me their business plan, and one of the things that struck me was there are no microbreweries in the central part of the county. Insofar as local people making a local product and selling it locally, we didn’t really have that kind of activity going on around the craft beer industry.”
He pointed out that craft beers are taking over more and more of the shelves in markets.
“In the spirit of introducing a new kind of business, one that’s very creative, I pose to the council the question of whether the council would be supportive of modifying our code such that it would allow a microbrewery, tasting room, brewpub or a version of that type of facility,” Hmara said.
Councilman Dave Swift said he had talked to the village manager about the idea.
“It makes sense to me,” Swift said. “The ones that I have been in actually would fit into a normal-sized office complex. Some of them are not industrial size. They can contain themselves in a rather small building.”
Village Attorney Jennifer Ashton said that because microbreweries involve a manufacturing process, the code does not include it in commercial retail areas.
“Our code includes restaurants, lounges, and separately mentions bars, but none of them contemplate that manufacturing part of it,” Ashton said. “That doesn’t mean it cannot be changed.”
Village Manager Ray Liggins said a microbrewery anticipates that use being in an industrial area.
“The way the microbreweries are, it’s not really industrial, but it is still manufacturing, and it comes with potential effects from the manufacturing. You’re bringing in raw products, there could be smells, and the request is to put it into the general commercial area,” Liggins said. “We think we can handle that. We will probably recommend it as a special exception so that we could identify and address any of those concerns and make them part of the approval.”
Hmara added that the spent grain from microbreweries is kept in closed containers, and used by farmers for livestock.
Liggins said that there has not been a formal request, but the couple interested in establishing a microbrewery had been in talking to planning staff. They had been told they could ask for a modification of the code, or apply for a special exception, which is more complicated.
Mayor Fred Pinto said he did not want to go down a path where they were drafting language for one applicant, but that he was not opposed to the idea.
“If we think it’s the right thing to do, then let’s do it because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Councilwoman Selena Smith said she was not prepared to modify the code immediately, but pointed out that microbreweries are not uncommon in the Delray Beach and Boynton Beach area.
“I would prefer instead of rushing through the process, getting full details on exactly what it is,” Smith said.
Ashton said she could prepare a proposed ordinance for the council’s consideration.
“We would research all of this for you,” Ashton said. “This is not going to be rushed. Code changes don’t happen overnight anyway.”