Shakopee appears ready to embrace the craft beer and wine- and spirits-making craze as it considers zoning changes to open more parts of the city to small breweries, wineries and distilleries.
The businesses currently are permitted only in light and industrial districts as production operations. But the boutique breweries, wineries and distilleries now popping up around the metro area are more retail in nature. The proposed zoning change in Shakopee specifies size restrictions for the businesses that could go into the commercial areas now populated by stores and restaurants, including downtown.
The Planning Commission recently recommended the City Council approve the revisions. Community Development Director Michael Leek said he expects the council to consider the new rules next month.
Leek said the city decided to look at the possible changes after getting several inquiries from people interested in sites for brewpubs, microbreweries and small wineries and distilleries.
“We don’t have someone at the door right now, but we want to put this forward so we would be prepared to respond based on the inquiries we’ve been getting,” Leek said.
Shakopee Mayor Brad Tabke said he’s glad city planners used the inquiries as a springboard for examining current zoning rules and proposing the revisions.
“I’m really excited about city staff moving forward on this, something for improving our business climate,” Tabke said. He said the addition of a brewpub could be “a perfect fit for Shakopee’s historic downtown.”
In addition to downtown, the city also has fielded queries on sites along Hwy. 101 and 169, some in the Southbridge commercial area, Leek said. He said the interest has come from entrepreneurs, like home-brewing enthusiasts eager to take the next step and open small commercial operations.
Among them is a group of three area residents who unsuccessfully tried to buy the old fire station downtown from the city to convert the building into a microbrewery and taproom. Leek said the group has inquired about other sites which he declined to identify.
The council rejected the brewery partners’ purchase price of $100,000 for the old station. But zoning also would have been an issue under the existing code. The proposed revisions would take care of that.
The brewery partners include Dave Luskey, a Prior Lake resident and veteran home-brewing enthusiast. He began making beer in 1989 and makes several different varieties.
Luskey said he and his partners have continued to scout the Shakopee area for sites.
“The craft-brewing business is a logical step from home-brewing,” said Luskey. “I don’t think this movement is going to die; it’s just going to continue going on.”
Precise figures for the number of people engaged in home brewing are difficult to come by, according to Michael Cote, president of the Minnesota Home Brewers Association. He said sales of businesses that supply home-brewing enthusiasts provide the best barometer.
“They are booming,” Cote said.
The commercial craft-brewing business also has exploded in Minnesota, mirroring a nationwide trend. The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild has 45 member breweries, 10 more than a year ago and more than twice the number of five years ago.
The possible changes in Shakopee come as plans proceed for Scott County’s first small-batch commercial brewery in Jordan.
Chaska resident Tim Roets has leased space on the vacant first floor of the historic Jordan Brewery building and is renovating it to transform it into a taproom and “nanobrewery” — a smaller version of a microbrewery.