Petitioners hoping for a November ballot referendum on whether Provo should have a Class F beer license for ancillary breweries or brewpubs, have failed to find enough valid signatures, an official recount verified Wednesday.
The hope was the recount would come up with 138 signatures. In the end, the recount still came short by 88 valid voter signatures with a total of 3,069.
Amanda Ercanbrack, Provo city recorder, was asked for the recount by Kim Santiago and other key sponsors of the referendum, when the first round of counting showed there were 3,019 valid signatures. Petitioners needed 3,157 valid signatures to get on the ballot.
“The recount was conducted in the presence of one of the petition sponsors with representatives from the County Clerk’s office present to answer questions, if necessary, regarding whether signers were registered to vote in Provo,” Ercanbrack said. “The result of the recount was that the petition sponsors had submitted 3,069 certified names. This did not meet the requirement of 3,157 certified names. Therefore, the petition is not qualified for the ballot.”
The original count by Ercanbrack, conducted on July 16, was 3,019 certified names.
“Thirty certified names were added during the recount because the sponsor was able to provide proof that technical requirements of state law regarding submission of those names had actually been met, which we did not have at the time of the original count,” Ercanbrack said. “Nine certified names were added as a result of identifying names that had been marked as verified in the hard copies of the signature pages, but had not been included in the list of certified names provided to the City Recorder’s Office.”
The remaining 11 certified names added during the recount were the result of identifying various issues such as signatures that had been added below the last signature line on the page, signers that had signed multiple times but had not received credit for either signature, etc., according to Ercanbrack.
“The final verified signature number for the recount was 3,069 and we needed 3,157. It is disappointing to come this close and not get this on the ballot,” Santiago said. “With new legislative requirements and some unusual circumstances with COVID, it was an uphill battle from the beginning, but we thought we were going to get there.”
Santiago continued, “There were approximately 3,500 people in Provo that wanted to vote on this. For one reason or another too many signatures were excluded for legal reasons and we were unable to get this on the ballot. We appreciate Amanda Ercanbrack and Janene Weiss and Brian Jones from Provo City and Rozann Mitchell and Kris Swenson from the County Elections Office. They were professional and helpful through this process.”
The only recourse petitioners have left is to take the issue to court.
“I don’t think that’s an avenue that we want to go down,” Santiago said. “We did have unusual circumstances with COVID, and I did have a late-hour power failure at my house which prevented me from processing some final signatures, but I don’t think that (is) something that we want to go to court over.”
Provo brewpub journey
Looking back, it appears the start of all this brouhaha occurred around June of 2016 when business owner Richard Gregory asked his neighbors and council representatives to support him and his partner, Andrew Fullmer, in a new venture — a microbrewery.
The name of the proposed business would be the Maple Mountain Brew Co. It would brew several non-alcoholic sodas, including several flavors of root beer, ginger beer, birch beer and more. It would also brew a variety of craft beers.
“It’s a craft and art form,” Fullmer said in a 2016 interview. “It’s not just putting things in a pot and throwing yeast on top. A microbrew is a culmination of flavors in the brew, and how it also mixes with food paired with it.
“We know there is a huge community of craft beer drinkers in Provo. I’m part of it,” Fullmer said.
It would take two council members to champion the cause, according to Gregory. That is what’s needed to get on a work session agenda. At the time, only former Councilman Dave Knecht showed any kind of interest and commitment to helping.
Knecht sent out a questionnaire to 500 members of District 3, which he represented. The response from his constituency showed a strong sentiment of support — almost 2 to 1.
Since 2017, businesses in downtown Provo have been researching the opportunities to have brewpubs and on-site microbreweries in restaurants, which required a land use change.
On Jan. 22 of this year, after about two hours of council and public discussion about amending zoning laws for brewpubs, the council voted unanimously to continue the item to Feb. 18.
The council hoped this would give time for the public to respond to a city survey on the issue and for staff to gather more data.
The key questions were about licensing, the quantity of beer produced on site or limiting the number of licenses allowed in the city and other issues.
Several residents that spoke that night and said they have families, live in the downtown area, love Provo and drink alcohol at dinner. They would like to have the brewpub option in Provo.
Those against feel that Provo is unique for not having brewpubs and that people come here for that environment.
On Feb. 18, the council passed the zone for brewpubs. Two days later the first referendum was started.
Later that one was dropped and the current referendum started when the council formulated and voted unanimously on a Class F beer license specifically for ancillary breweries.