SUSSEX COUNTY, Del.- While Delaware’s craft brewing industry is expanding, the physical locations of local brewpubs are reaching their limit.
Under current Delaware law, brewpubs and breweries are limited to three locations. Representative Bryan Shupe (R – Milford) is introducing a bill to eliminate that cap.
“I am a small business owner myself. I would hate for a regulation to disenfranchise me or not allow me to build onto success,” he explains.
Big Oyster Brewery Owner Jeff Hamer says current law is impacting his company’s expansion plans, and therefore the local economy.
“We are looking at our third unit. Do we open a brewery or do we open a brewpub? A brewery may be 10-20 jobs, a brewpub[is] 50-60 jobs,” he says. “Because of three places now we are limited to what we are going to look for real estate wise: do we purchase? Do we rent? It really gives us fewer options.”
Shupe says his bill is facing opposition by distributors, who fear eliminating the cap could bypass distribution, and therefore eliminate that revenue. Revelation Craft Brewing co-owner Patrick Staggs says distributors should look at the proposed changes as an investment. He says more locations means more production and more profit.
“I can understand somewhat the opposition but […] it’s a misunderstanding,” he says. “[Distributors] are a true partner with us because we want to grow our can distribution. They are our partner to do that, so we have to stay competitive.”
Staggs says Revelation’s presence in West Rehoboth brought infrastructure improvements like paved streets and lighting, and the company would like to do that in towns like Dover, but with their acquisition of 16 Mile Brewery, they may have to decline.
“If this doesn’t get passed we have to say no to these towns that are wanting this same type of impact that we’ve been able to bring so far,” he says.
At the newly opened Brick Works Brewing and Eats, the brewpub staff hopes to keep business in Delaware, but may move elsewhere if need be.
“We are trying to be in a competitive environment,” says chef Kevin Reading. “The state wants to be able to allow business to thrive and to grow, but now you are limiting us. So our next choice if we blow it out of the water here is to go to Maryland or Pennsylvania instead of keeping it in Delaware.”
Shupe’s bill will be introduced Wednesday, where it must get out of committee before it’s taken to the House or Senate for a vote.