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Calgary Changes Bylaw, Edmonton Thinking About It

cityofcalgaryWannabe craft breweries in Edmonton and Calgary have gotten some really positive news recently from their municipal governments. Both cities are making bylaw changes that will make it easier to open a small craft brewery. It is a solid indication that Alberta policy-makers are starting to get the advantages of local craft beer.

First, a few weeks ago, Calgary City Council approved a new bylaw basically permitting breweries (and wineries and distilleries) to open in commercial areas. Without getting too policy wonkish, they added a new category of development in their Land Use Bylaw called “brewery, winery, distillery”. It allows the creation of smaller-sized production facilities in areas previously banned – most importantly key commercial strips that have lots of traffic. Commercial zoning allows restaurants, bars and stores but prohibits industrial-like manufacturing. In the past small breweries were classified as manufacturing and thus shut out from those areas. Brewpubs, who have a different classification, were allowed.

However, with the 2013 AGLC policy changes, the distinction between a brewpub and brewery and the allowance of brewery tap rooms blurred the line between the two types of operations. The elimination of minimum production also opened up the possibility of a small brewing operation. Calgary finally figured that out and changed their bylaw to recognize the new realities.

Ironically, their bylaw comes after the recent spate of new breweries that are opening or soon to open in that city. However, it will facilitate a broader range of brewery business plans in the future. The bylaw puts a square-foot restriction on any brewery development, meaning a big brewery like Big Rock couldn’t move onto to electric avenue or anything¬† like that (I am not saying Big Rock wants to do that…).

For the record, I did my CBC column on the bylaw change a few weeks back and had held off reporting it here because I was hoping to link to the audio file. Unfortunately, my friends at the CBC have unexpectedly fallen back into their pattern of not posting the file, meaning I waited a bit too long to post the news in the hopes of giving you some value-added. My apologies.

cityofedmontonThe second bit of news – which is much fresher – is that this week Edmonton City Council voted to move ahead with drafting a similar bylaw. We don’t yet know what exactly the bylaw will say, but sources tell me that it will be based on the Calgary amendment with some possible tweaks to meet Edmonton’s needs. One possibility is to limit size by brewhouse size rather than square footage – which makes more sense to me as an upper limit.

They will debate the principles of the bylaw in two weeks (or so I am told), and pass the final version likely in the spring.

Edmonton has been lagging in the Alberta craft beer boom. One of the reasons has been their restrictive development policies. I am very hopeful that if Edmonton makes it easier to open a brewery in the city, this will remove yet another barrier to small-scale, quality local beer being produced in my home city.

If you live in Edmonton, try to make a point of contacting your City Councillor and let them know you think changing the bylaw is a good idea. In my mind it is one of those easy cases – no one gets hurt but lots of people will benefit.

I will try to keep you posted on developments.

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