City might welcome alcohol makers

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On the same night Littleton City Council just edged the ball forward on retail pot sales, there seemed to be wholehearted support for expanding the alcohol-manufacturing trade in the city.

“I have been very impressed by all three of the folks who have asked for this,” said Mayor Debbie Brinkman, who earlier during the Aug. 27 study session said she’d prefer that Littleton be known for something other than selling pot.

Littleton resident John Cowperthwaite Jr. of Black Arts Cellars says downtown would be a perfect fit for his winery, and he mentions the former auto-body shop on the west end of Main Street in particular.

“Wine making is my passion, and I am asking Littleton to consider making allowances for this business type so I can do what I love while helping to invigorate Littleton by bringing something new and interesting to the historic downtown district,” he wrote in a letter to council.

Currently, such companies are only allowed in industrial areas like the Santa Fe corridor, where Breckenridge Brewery will rise. The Old Mill brewery gets to be downtown because it has a full restaurant, so it’s classified as a brewpub.

Other cities have established regulations for microbreweries, microdistilleries and limited wineries. Colorado law requires them to serve snacks and stay 500 feet away from schools. Microbreweries are classified as producing up to 60,000 barrels a year, but there is no state limit on how much a brewery can produce. Municipalities can impose their own regulations; Aspen, for example, limits how big the reception area can be, hours of operation and sample sizes.

“Anything we could do that would allow retail sales to occur would be a benefit,” said Councilor Jim Taylor, who is an advocate of selling and taxing pot, as well.

Glen Van Nimwegen, community-development director, compares microbreweries and limited wineries to bakeries as far as impact on their surroundings, but acknowledges microdistilleries present somewhat more of a challenge.

“They tend to catch on fire once in a while, and they tend to explode,” he said, so zoning requirements would need to include extra precautions such as fire-rated walls.

Ryan White, in his request to council to consider zoning changes that would allow his microdistillery, noted the restrictions are easing in across the country.

“The remaining remnants of prohibition-era laws have made for difficult navigation in my journey to open a microdistillery here in Colorado, particularly in Littleton, where I was born and raised,” he wrote. “Much of the success of microdistilleries I’ve visited comes from the support of the community, including those who understand the advantages of supporting the local economy and those who prefer locally crafted goods that are unique.”