Emmaus may soon become a more welcoming community for brew pubs and small breweries.
Borough council had its first reading Monday night on a proposed ordinance that would amend zoning to allow brew pubs and craft breweries in some parts of Emmaus.
The proposed ordinance states that new and innovative businesses relating to the art of craft brewing are increasingly popular and attract visitors and customers to the municipalities in which they are located.
It also states Emmaus council desires to attract such businesses, while ensuring they are in appropriate zoning districts and subject to appropriate regulations.
“One of council’s greatest concerns is we do not want a bar on every street,” said borough manager Shane Pepe.
Borough solicitor Thomas Dinkelacker said the ordinance is being considered because current borough zoning addresses only restaurants, taverns and nightclubs.
If passed, the ordinance would allow brew pubs and craft breweries as conditional uses in the highway commercial, light industrial and central commercial zoning districts of Emmaus.
Dinkelacker explained breweries are where beer is made and brew pubs essentially are restaurants where it is served, although he added beer also can be made in brew pubs.
“You have to sell the product you are making,” he said.
The proposed ordinance also would allow a brewery to have a brew pub or a taproom for sampling.
The solicitor said the state’s liquor laws allow craft breweries to make beer, lager beer, ale, porter or similar fermented malt beverages, including alcoholic cider.
Craft breweries will be limited to producing 40,000 barrels a year.
And, in the borough’s central commercial zoning district, they will be allowed to produce only 15,000 barrels annually, said Dinkelacker. “In that district, we want a smaller production operation.”
Pepe said the proposed ordinance will give the borough “some consistency as to what we’re allowing.” He added there is no clear definition in its current zoning ordinance.
Council plans to take final action on the ordinance at its Sept. 2 meeting. It gave the proposal unanimous first-reading approval Monday.
Explaining why final action is not being taken until early September, Pepe said the borough’s planning commission also has to review the proposed ordinance.
The first business to take advantage of the ordinance when it is passed apparently will be Funk Brewing Company, which is located in a building painted bright red at S. 6th and Bank streets, behind Joe’s Pizza at 6th and Main streets.
Funk’s website already declares its taproom will be opening soon in Emmaus, but that can’t happen until after council passes the ordinance and then formally considers Funk’s request to operate such a taproom.
Council member Jeff Shubzda said Funk has been making beer in Emmaus for two or three months. Pepe said every bar in town already serves Funk beer and Shangy’s beer store on Main Street sells it.
The borough manager confirmed Funk Brewery wants to have a tasting room, adding: “Right now they’re not allowed.”
He said the proposed ordinance also would allow Funk to do on-site sales.
Pepe told council a lawyer representing Funk Brewery met with him and Dinkelacker to finalize some wording in the proposed ordinance.
But he stressed the ordinance is not being written just for Funk.
Even after the ordinance is passed, said Pepe, Funk will have to go before council and seek approval for a conditional use.
Said Dinkelacker: “It is a permitted use if borough council finds that all the conditions are met. There would actually be a hearing and you folks would essentially be acting like the zoning hearing board when the zoning hearing board hears a special exception case.”