Editor’s note: In a series running through Dec. 31, the Daily Herald is sharing its picks for “Utah County’s Top 10 News Stories for 2020.” We will be running recaps of those stories, two per day, through New Year’s Eve. This story is ranked No. 8.
The discussion surrounding ancillary breweries — or brewpubs — in Provo was the talk of the county in 2020, and the topic has qualified as one of Utah County’s top 10 stories of the year.
Since 2017, businesses in downtown Provo have been researching the opportunity to have brew pubs and on-site microbreweries in restaurants, which would require a land use change.
The item finally came to the council for discussion and approval in January. After seven months and a few days, the possibility has seen several changes but groups have left some of the discussion in a veritable hangover of thought until the council could get back to it sometime in the future.
After about two hours of council and public discussion about amending zoning laws for brew pubs at the Municipal Council meeting on Jan. 22, the council voted unanimously to continue the item until 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.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, 17 members of the community at the open mic were in favor of the land use change. Eight members of the public were opposed.
Of those that spoke at the open mic portion, seven were former council members; of those seven, two were in favor and five were opposed.
Wayne Parker, Provo’s chief administrative officer, was asked where the administration stood.
The key questions of the agenda item were about licensing, the quantity of beer produced on site or limiting the number of licenses allowed in the city and other issues, Parker replied.
“Many concerns talked about tonight are not before you tonight,” Parker said.
But, that did not stop the public brouhaha on the issue, nor the council from continuing to kick the discussion can down the road.
The requested survey on the issue was put on Open Town Hall, a council website created for resident input. The public response to the survey was overwhelming, according to Karen Tapahe, community relations coordinator for the Provo Municipal Council.
“Within four days, more than 1,100 people had viewed the topic and 860 people had taken the survey,” Tapahe said in a press release. “This is by far the topic with the most participation on the Open City Hall site.”
Responses showed that about 90% of survey participants supported the ordinance amendment and 88% would visit a restaurant in Provo that brews its own beer if the amendment passed. Around 9% said they were not supportive of the amendment.
Councilman David Harding was one who wanted more citizen input and research done on the matter.
Brewing questions were, again, kicked on to the next meeting.
On Feb. 18, the council approved amending the land use code to allow ancillary breweries in restaurants in two downtown zones and in regional shopping center areas.
The vote was a struggle with Council members Travis Hoban, David Shipley, Shannon Ellsworth and David Harding — who voted in favor of the amendment — and Council members Bill Fillmore, Dave Sewell and George Handley — who voted against. Harding asked to have a sunrise clause included in the amendment.
Brian Jones, city attorney, noted that a sunrise clause could help to separate the land use and licensing issues and give the council time to adopt licensing changes before brewpubs become permitted uses, if the council so chooses.
At that meeting, a second chance for comment from the public was allowed on the issue.
Comments comprised several people who favored the land use to allow brewpubs for economic value, to allow more diversity and to provide a welcoming atmosphere for those who may come from outside of Provo.
Those who were opposed spoke about the health and safety of the residents as well as maintaining — what they perceive as — the values of the city.
One March 10, what started as an intent to focus on creating a beer license for ancillary breweries took on a larger discussion when members of the Provo Municipal Council suggested looking at all beer and alcohol licenses for the city.
During their twice monthly work session, the council was given information on the basic three options to getting beer licensing in restaurants, as put forth by state regulation.
Beer licensing for restaurants includes looking at restaurants with full bars, similar to the Strap Tank in Lehi, as well as restaurants with limited services and restaurants with only beer, like the Strap Tank in Springville, according to Hannah Salzl, Provo’s policy analyst.
Between Feb. 19 and the March meeting — an opposition group, led by former Councilman and Mayor George Stewart, other former council members and city leaders — filed a referendum, hoping to get enough signatures on petitions to put the issue on the November ballot.
Joining Stewart were Kim Santiago, Kay Van Buren, Paul Warner, Cindy Richards, Steven A. Christiansen, Dave Acheson, Dave Knecht and Sherrie L. Spencer.
On March 31, the council, in an extensive discussion during its work session, came closer to having a beer license for ancillary breweries in downtown Provo and at regional shopping centers.
The motion made by the council was to have the beer licensing sub-committee create wording for the F class beer license that is specific to ancillary breweries based on one of two options presented.
The vote on the motion was 6-1. Councilman Bill Fillmore held the only dissenting vote, stating he wanted all of the beer licenses to be taken care of all at one time as compared to the other council members who voted to do just the F class license now with the others being done and realigned by early fall.
The city needed to have the F class license in place by April 15 in case a referendum would be drawn up against the license proposal. That would allow for it to be on November’s ballot. If approved after April 15, it would not be voted on until November 2021.
At their April 14 meeting, the council voted to approve an F class beer license, allowing for ancillary breweries. However, further discussion was to be held on how density limitations would play a part in the code for the F class license.
The council addressed two code issues to be voted on. The first was to clean up all of the beer licenses and to have the codes come into compliance with state regulations and to get rid of redundancy. That vote was unanimous.
The second was to pass the F class license with the intention of adding other regulations and limitations, including issues such as the density of businesses with ancillary breweries in the downtown area as well as other issues.
The item was approved, 4-3.
During the May 5 work session, Council member Shannon Ellsworth had some answers. A brewpub makes beer for its customers on site, and they have commodities that are not used at a regular restaurant, among other things.
Ellsworth said that information, like others facts, came from the National Brewery Association. Ellsworth is on the council subcommittee that was to do a deep dive in to best practices of brewpubs, distancing and beer license laws.
The committee was to present something that could be adapted for the class F beer license.
She tried, despite saying the regulations were too restrictive for her, and she was able to compromise with other members of the committee.
Ellsworth presented six restrictions that could be adapted when owners applied to get a class F license, including a couple restrictions that were already dealt with by state laws.
But other members of the committee and the council appeared to be more interested in taking a broader look at all of the alcohol being sold in restaurants, as well, in an attempt to see if there were any local regulations that could be put into place for distancing, both in location density and population density.
June and July
Residents seeking a referendum on November’s ballot on whether voters support creating a class F beer license failed to reach the number of valid signatures required.
After an official count by Rozan Mitchell and her staff in the county elections office and a second count by the city, Provo city recorder Amanda Ercanbrack announced that there were 3,019 valid signatures on July 16. They needed 3,157 valid signatures to get on the ballot.
According to Ercanbrack, the petitioners could have filed for an official recount.
“However, the required threshold was not met,” said Mayor Michelle Kaufusi. “No matter which side you are on in the ‘brewpub’ debate, the city must respect the bright line of the law in determining whether a referendum petition qualifies for the ballot. We recognize this is a controversial issue in our community, and we again appreciate the work of the sponsors, the county clerk and the city recorder on this issue.”
On July 29, the results of a recount on the referendum came up short.
As 2020 closes, Provo has a class F beer license allowing brewpubs, but by density, it appears only four or five total will be allowed within the three zones approved in Provo.
The council has yet to discuss the aligning of alcohol and beer licenses in restaurants throughout the city as requested by Fillmore. That discussion will roll into 2021.