If nothing else, Pennsylvania lawmakers are making it easier for business owners such as Scott Rudich, of Round Guys Brewing Co. in Lansdale, to open new places to drink.
Under a 2015 change in the liquor code that allows breweries to sell beer by the pint, Round Guys is opening a second location across South Wood Street with an independent cafe and a live music venue in the basement. The grand opening is Friday.
"While it does look like we're opening another brewpub right across the street from ours, it's a different atmosphere and a different clientele,” Rudich said. “Our brewpub still has 16 beers on tap. Across the street, we're focusing on coffee, cocktails, wine, and our beer will be on tap — but only six or seven beers.”
The new location, Backyard Beans Cafe/The Underground, is taking advantage of last year’s liquor law change that allowed breweries to sell Pennsylvania spirits, one of a raft of changes that also allowed limited distilleries and limited wineries to sell Pennsylvania beers and each other’s products.
Plus, supermarkets with a restaurant liquor license now have the right to sell wine, a change that hurt brewers, because they lost shelf space to wine.
Brewers have long had to get a license for a separate warehouse. The change in 2015 allowed breweries to sell pints in a tap room without a brewpub license. That right extended to the two satellite locations brewers are allowed to have.
Then, in January, the LCB issued an important legal opinion clarifying that at storage locations brewers may sell all the Pennsylvania products that breweries can sell, said Ted Zeller, an attorney with Norris McLaughlin & Marcus PA of Allentown.
So far, six brewers in Southeastern Pennsylvania have gotten the storage licenses. Three more are pending, the LCB’s license database showed this week.
Jeremy Myers, head brewer at Neshaminy Creek Brewing in Croydon, is using a storage license to open the Borough Brewhouse in Jenkintown.
“We could get a brewery storage license in less than 30 days, and we can get this spot open more quickly with the storage license and sell beer that we're making in Croydon in the interim," Myers said.
To operate as a brewery, he also needs a federal permit, which can take months. When the federal permit comes through, Borough Brewhouse will convert to a state brewery license, Myers said.
Second Story Brewing in Old City used one of its storage licenses to open a 10-seat taproom at a restaurant near Pottstown that does not have a liquor license.
Second Story serves Pennsylvania wine at Tony Joe’s Taproom & House of Great Eats, but not spirits.
“We wanted to concentrate on our beer, just to get people out in Chester County to know who we are,” said Adam Finch, general manager of Second Story’s Old City location. “We're using it as satellite advertising."
In October, Free Will Brewing of Perkasie used a storage license to open a taproom at Peddler’s Village in New Hope. Free Will did not respond to a request for more information.
Having storage space in a walk-in refrigerator was a big factor for Round Guys, Rudich said.
“When we can our beer, it sits on the dock and if it's 90 degrees, it sits at 90 degrees. Having this space is going to allow us to store beer at refrigerator temperature,” Rudich said.
For Rudich, the new location also has an economic development dimension. Total investment in the build-out of the new space by Round Guys and the café, Backyard Beans Coffee Co., was $170,000.
“We are working really hard to try to revitalize Lansdale,” which Rudich described as lagging other suburban towns like Ambler and Phoenixville.
Rudich saw encouraging signs that the venture will pay off during an April 8 soft opening: “Two drag shows sold out, with lots of smiles and happy faces.”