OLDSMAR – The craft beer craze in Florida is still going strong, with a reported 397 percent increase in craft breweries in the Sunshine State over the last six years.
The boom has been particularly prevalent in Pinellas County, which, according to a recent study, is home to 40 percent of the state’s breweries, including seven in Dunedin alone.
With seemingly every community in the county boasting at least one brewery, and in some cases, multiple breweries, Oldsmar officials recently decided to explore allowing the facilities in certain sections of town, specifically in the Town Center Commercial Residential District near Tampa Road and State Street.
“Staff has been approached many times over the years about establishing breweries in the TCCR district,” city planner Steve Everitt told the mayor and council members during a work session on April 30.
“But a brewery, they manufacture beer on site, and that’s not permitted by city code because it’s con-sidered a manufacturing use.”
Mayor Doug Bevis noted that according to the current code, nothing could be manufactured in the district, including beer, to which Everitt replied that was correct.
Everitt explained the difference between breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs – mainly production, volume and serving food – and pointed out that alcohol sale is also prohibited in Town Center Residential Districts due to a number of schools, churches and residential homes in the area.
“There’s distances around those properties where you cannot have alcohol sales,” he said.
“That’s old, antiquated thinking,” Council member Gabby McGee said of the restrictions. “I’m against old traditions that don’t fit modern times.”
Council member Jerry Beverland questioned the importance of addressing the matter, stating “Oldsmar will never become famous for microbreweries,” and predicting “they’ll be a thing of the past someday.”
While it’s true recent reports have indicated the craft brew craze might be softening, Bevis said he believes having one would be beneficial for the city.
“I don’t think so,” Bevis replied to Beverland’s remark. “I mean, you could’ve said the same thing about Dunedin 10 years ago and look at them now. That same argument was made there five, 10 years ago.”
After additional discussion about what type of facility should be allowed, the council directed staff to research the specifics involved with each type of brewery and bring the results to them at a later date.
After the work session, the mayor and McGee spoke about the subject.
“I don’t know what formally needs to be done to remove the restrictions and allow them in the CRA, but we would like to mimic Dunedin and Safety Harbor and allow certain uses,” Bevis said. “The building department has been asked about it, and they’re not allowed to do it because of our code, so we need to look at what needs to be done to change that.”
Asked if he would welcome breweries and or brewpubs in town, the mayor didn’t hesitate.
“I’m fine with it,” he said. “I don’t see us getting something as big as the Tampa Bay Brewing Company, but for a smaller production facility, I’m all for it.”
McGee, a manager at Cisco Systems who has traveled the world extensively for her job as well as for pleasure, explained the importance of Oldsmar having a brewery at this point in time.
“I think the discussion was long overdue,” she said via email. “I am pleased to know that we have had some interested parties in opening taprooms and/or microbreweries within our city.”
“Millennials love craft beer and are the primary consumers of it because they like variety, so the availability of breweries and taprooms in our downtown and industrial parks will inevitably draw a younger demographic, additional beer tourism and could help create a sense of identity and pride within our city.”
McGee added, “Imagine someone in the future enjoying a beer at the airport or at a restaurant, and on the label it says Brewed in Oldsmar, Florida.”