Owners of prospective brewery near Uptown identify themselves

10

August 20, 2012 by southwestjournal

By Nick Halter

The three men hoping to open a brewery and taproom at 25th and Hennepin Avenue South despite struggles with local City Council Member Meg Tuthill have identified their company as Pryes Brewing Company, LLC.

A month ago, Pryes Brewing sent an e-mail to Tuthill’s office asking for help in changing a city ordinance that she authored to restrict off-sale liquor within 300 feet of school property. A voicemail Tuthill left with the Pryes owners has garnered lots of attention, as some say Tuthill was snotty to the prospective business.

(See previous Southwest Journal coverage of the voicemail here)

In an interview today, Allan Flinn of St. Paul identified himself as the chief financial officer of the company. He also identified Jeremy Pryes as the CEO and Ben Schuster as the chief marketing officer.

Flinn said Pryes is the brewmaster and has been working on recipes in the basement of his South Minneapolis home. Basement and garage brewing is a pretty typical starting place for craft brewers.

Flinn said the Pryes owners want to open at 2528 Hennepin Ave. S. Currently, that’s a vacant storefront that used to house Muddy Paws Cheesecake and has apartments on the second floor. They’re also working on securing financing for their equipment.

Flinn said Pryes is heavy into ales with lots of hops. He said the brewery is looking at making the “Minneapolis IPA” the Pyres flagship and also wants to release a brown ale and a double IPA.

Pryes Brewing’s biggest hurdle is that the owners want to sell growlers, or 64-ounce jugs of beer. By doing so, the Pryes location would be considered an off-sale establishment and face stricter laws than just a taproom. Thus, he e-mailed Tuthill to see if she could help.

Flinn said not being able selling growlers would “put a strain” on their business model. He’d like to have customers in to look at the brewery, serve them pints, and allow them to buy a growler to take home.

Flinn said he believes other Minneapolis City Council members are interested in helping change ordinances to allow Pryes to open at 25th and Hennepin. But if not, Flinn said they would have to consider other options.

“It’s our understanding that there is significant interest from other council members to support the change,” he said. “That’s really kind of where we’re going with it now. In the meantime, simultaneously, depending on what our time horizon is, we may have to start looking at alternative locations, but again, our idea location would be where that is.”

Currently, there are breweries or prospective breweries in every quadrant of the city except for Southwest. Northeast and the North Loop have been particular hot spots for brewing beer.

Flinn said he believes the area surrounding Uptown is craving for a brewery.

“In or near Uptown would be our ideal location,” he said. “We just feel there’s a latent customer demand there that hasn’t been met. We also just feel that for our customers, that’s a central location for them.”

Tuthill, in her voicemail, criticized Pryes for saying that Pryes would help revitalize Uptown. She said the area is already revitalized.

Flinn said he meant no disrespect.

“We didn’t mean to imply that Uptown needed revitalization,” he said. “Our point, and it was probably a poor choice of words to get at it, is that this is something to help liven the area. It’s something new and fresh for Uptown or near the Uptown area, that residents would really get behind and support and enjoy and make that an even better experience to be in Uptown.”

Here’s the text of the e-mail that Flinn sent to Tuthill a month ago.

Dear Councilwoman Tuthill,

Our company was founded this year with the goal of establishing our brewery and taproom within the city of Minneapolis. We are progressing with our plans and are in the process of site selection. The location we are seriously considering is in the Uptown area at 2528 Hennepin Ave S., which we believe would be an optimal location as there are no other microbreweries located in the Uptown area. Being the first microbrewery in the area would be a great fit with our target customers and will help re-vitalize the Uptown area.  

However, we have been in contact with Minneapolis License Inspector Greg Buenning and it appears we may have an issue with our proximity to the Jefferson Community School at 1200 W 25th Street, which is across Hennepin Avenue from our proposed location. The on-sale beer sales within our taproom would not be at issue as the Minneapolis zoning ordinance 360.120 requires at least 300 feet from the front entrance, which our location would exceed. But, the off-sale malt beverage growler sales, as governed by the same ordinance, requires 300 feet from the property line. As written, we would not meet this criteria as the school’s playground abuts Hennepin avenue.

What we are proposing, and would appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you, is a change to this ordinance to be consistent with the on-sale distance requirement and/or to allow for on-site brewed malt beverage growler sales to be sold off-sale out of our location outside of school hours (i.e., school hours being 8AM to 3PM, Monday through Friday). Our plan is to only have the taproom open in the afternoon and evening, outside of school hours and in accordance with all applicable MN statutes and Minneapolis ordinances. However, we are unsure of what the process to amend or receive a variance to the ordinance might entail, so we are hoping that we could call you at your convenience to discuss it. Please let us know when you might be available.

We are looking forward to joining the dynamic Uptown community, and we extend to you a standing invitation to come to our brewery and enjoy our beer, regardless of where we eventually locate.

Cheers,

Allan J. Flinn

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10 thoughts on “Owners of prospective brewery near Uptown identify themselves

  1. Steven Prince says:

    The school does not empty at 3pm – it has after-school and community education activities every night until after 8pm. That kid’s playground that is so inconveniently located right across from your proposed front door is also used by Minneapolis Kids – the District’s latch key program for children of working parents. That program ends at 6pm. Jefferson’s access to public transportation, and the fact that it serves a largely immigrant and working class community makes it one of the most intensely used community education locations in Minneapolis.

    Maybe before going out of your way to embarrass the council member you might actually call her back, and understand why your attitude is unlikely to make friends in the neighborhood. As a long time neighbor, I, like Meg, bristle at prospective businesses that want to “revitalize” my neighborhood, but only if we rewrite the rules to allow them to do what is good for them, but not so good for the neighborhood. Most of us who have invested in the neighborhood over the years didn’t ask for special treatment or insist that the rules not apply to us.

    • Thomas says:

      I guess I am not fully understanding what is so bad with opening a bar next to a school. It’s been an empty storefront for how many years now, and have other businesses shown any such interest? The new restaurant that used to be Duplex is located right across from the school and serves alcohol.

      Laws and regulations are changed all the time, despite foolish neighborhood tenants who resist businesses coming in to assist and clean up neighborhoods, provide jobs, create establishments and institutions.

  2. Jim long says:

    Steven, your whole first paragraph fails to make much sense to me. Yes there may be some kids playing on a playground while people are coming in to buy growlers, but how would that negatively affect the children? I personally feel that many of the criticisms of this plan is because people think that a bunch of drunks will be coming in to buy growlers and disrupt the children. But I urge you to go someplace like the Harriet brewery in south minneapolis which is currently doing what these guys want to do, and tell me about the people who go there. They are mostly yuppies or upper middle class older people who just want to try a new beer and maybe bring some home. I can’t see any reason why I wouldn’t want my kids to play in a playground less than 300 feet from there

    We also have to think about how these rules should be changed not just for one business, but for all businesses. It seems to me that this rule is old fashioned and hampers the economic development of the area. And first of all we have a site that isn’t being used right now so just having it in use will be a significant improvement, in addition, most consumers of craft beer are fairly well off so would have more income to shop at other businesses nearby.

    Thus in my personal opinion I think me negative opinions of this proposed brewery really hold no water, and if you think children will be so harmed by some yuppies carrying some beer out of a brewery less than 300 feet away from them, then you should move to northern canada where there’s nothing that could possibly risk harming them…

  3. Steven Prince says:

    The proposal at 25th and Hennepin is for a “brewery and taproom.” The owners want to have a bar selling beer (or malt liquor), and they want to make off-site sales (presumably of growlers).

    The letter to Meg from Mr. Flinn says that the proposed location is OK for on-site sales (the bar) but not OK for off-site sales (taking 64 oz. bottles of beer into the neighborhood). I think the city ordinance prohibits both types of sales.

    On-site sales. That cannot happen if the entrance is within 300’ of the entrance for Jefferson school. (Mpls Ord. § 360.12) Perhaps there is confusion about which of the five school doors is the “principal public entrance” to the school (as defined by the ordinance), but the closest entrance is the only handicapped accessible door, and it is where the public are greeted when visiting. It is also closer than 300’ from the door of the proposed brew-pub site.

    This prohibition would not apply if the proposed site was zoned B4, but it is not. It is zoned C2. There is also an exception if the business is going to be a restaurant with at least 70% of its sales from food and non-alcoholic beverages. That exception does not apply either.

    To have on-site sales, the site is going to have to be rezoned B4, or the ordinance forbidding on-site alcohol sales within 300’ of a school door is going to have to be changed.

    Off-site sales. This part of the ordinance forbids sales for business within 300’ of both schools and a “religious institution place of assembly,” but measures the 300’ from lot line to lot line, instead of between “principal public entrance[s].”

    The off-site rule used to measure door to door, but was changed recently (at the suggestion of council member Tuthill). In my view it is too bad the council didn’t get rid of the door-to-door rule completely, since it is confusing and encourages game-playing and litigation.

    For those of you who think it is no big deal to have an establishment for drinking, and selling beer, with a school, and school playground right outside, you should suggest to your council members that the ordinance be scrapped entirely. I don’t think your views are going to carry the day.

    Finally, for those who think families with children, and those of us over 30, should move to the suburbs (or “Canada” as one poster suggested), you make me laugh. I’ve lived here for 27 years, and I have had people suggest that before for defending a livable and diverse urban environment. The people that think this part of town should just be a playground for college students and young professionals without kids, they don’t stick around. They move to the suburbs.

    • Anders says:

      The NW door to the building is also within 300′ of Birdhouse and Namaste Cafe, both of which have liquor licenses. Not sure which door is considered the principal public entrance as I have only gone to Jefferson for after-hours events, but I’d guess it’s the one closest to the office.

      It’s probably not productive for people on either side of this issue, or others in Uptown, to tell each other to move away. A lot of young people do move on because the cost of homeownership is disproportionately high in Uptown, and anecdotally, it seems that many more move to other parts of Minneapolis (or St. Paul) than do to the suburbs. It may be a generational thing (and it almost certainly is), but I really don’t think any of my twentysomething peers who live around here will be moving to suburbia, with or without children in the equation. Just like the caricatured cranky old homeowners put up with their property tax and home repair bills because they like the area, the equally-caricatured party animal kids put up with high rents for small apartments because this is a great place to live.

      So to the point: people who support this microbrewery (like I do) think that IT is something that will make for a “livable and diverse urban environment,” and the ordinance language should be changed because it doesn’t help that goal. People on both sides of the Trader Joe’s debate supported a livable and diverse urban environment, too. So did everyone who debated MoZaic, the Edgewater, or the Lake/Knox apartments. Just saying.

      • Steven Prince says:

        Birdhouse and Namaste are restaurants so the 300′ ordinance does not apply. I don’t have a problem with a restaurant at the location in question, but I do have a problem with a business focused solely on the sale of alcohol. I would support a brew pub in a better location – not across the street from a school and playground, and one with some off-street parking, or access to nearby off-street parking. There are plenty of those locations in the area without changing the rules.

        Your point about which door should be used to measure the 300′ is exactly why the council should get rid of this rule and simply rely on lot-lines. When the school was built in 1923 the principal entrance was certainly the one on 26th St. (closest to the office). But during school hours that door is locked, and the public cannot get in. There are intercoms on two doors (SE and NW doors), where you can be buzzed in by office staff during school hours. The school sometimes has a greeter, particularly during after-school afternoon and evening hours (at the NW door), probably because it is on Hennepin Ave., right off the public parking lot, and it is the only handicapped accessible door (that is the door closest to the businesses in question).

        This leaves plenty of room for interpretation, misinterpretation, and arguments. With all do respect to my colleagues, this type of rule is only good for the lawyers.

      • Anders says:

        Birdhouse and other restaurants that serve alcohol must apply for an on-sale liquor license. They have a Class E license. 300′ rule applies, door to door. If you Google it you can track down the license inspector’s report (hard to link from a phone).

      • Anders says:

        Clarification: if you make 70/30 food you’re exempt, but the point was that their license report shows them as more than 300′ door to door. It’s minutiae but it underscores the craziness of the existing ordinances for sure. We can all agree on that.

  4. Steven Prince says:

    They need a liquor license, but the 300′ rule does not apply if 70% of their sales are food and non-alcoholic drinks, and they do not have a bar. Here is the language of the ordinance:

    Section 360.120 shall not apply when:

    (1)
    a.
    The premises for which a liquor, wine or beer license is sought is a restaurant as defined
    under section 362.390; and
    b.
    Such restaurant has gross sales revenue during each fiscal year from the sale of food and
    beverages not containing alcohol in an amount of not less than seventy (70) percent of its
    total gross revenue from the sale of food and beverages; and
    c.
    Such restaurant does not contain a bar area. “Bar area” shall mean any area not devoted
    exclusively to full restaurant service to customers seated at tables, in which consumption
    of alcoholic beverages is the primary activity.

  5. Steven Prince says:

    I agree that measuring lot-line to lot-line makes more sense then door to door. But I support the restriction on having bars next to schools and the exception for restaurants.

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