The Needham Select Board and Planning Boards are considering changes to current Town regulations that would allow for the siting of brew pubs and microbreweries in Needham.
In November 2021, the Select Board met with the Planning Board to discuss policy changes to allow breweries to locate in Needham. There was consensus that allowing the use would provide an economic development opportunity to add to the diversity of our business inventory and offer an additional amenity to residents and visitors. During the Planning Board’s zoning amendment process, several liquor license policy questions were raised that fall under the purview of the Select Board. The Planning Board deferred the zoning article until the Special Town Meeting this fall, so the Select Board may undertake its process to amend the Town’s liquor license regulations. This will provide Town Meeting Members and the public with a more comprehensive view of what is being proposed related to breweries in Needham.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the Town of Needham considering allowing breweries?
Breweries continue to rise in popularity and according to the Massachusetts Brewers Guild, there is no indication that the market will be oversaturated with them anytime soon. They are a destination business and help draw visitors from a wide geographic area which will help benefit other local businesses. A brewery would add to the diversity of Needham’s business inventory and would help infuse new energy into a commercial or industrial area in town. A new brewery would also potentially generate thousands of dollars in meals tax for the Town.
Why does the Town need to adopt special zoning to allow for breweries?
The Town’s zoning regulations do not currently allow the multiple types of uses at one site that would be requested by a brewery - such as producing, serving, and botting of its beer, food service, retail sales, and live entertainment. An amendment to the Town’s zoning bylaws would allow for multiple uses on one site.
Where will breweries be located in Needham?
The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on this zoning change in late summer/early fall to discuss the proposed zoning districts in which a brew pub or microbrewery would be allowed. The goal is for the zoning amendment to be included on the warrant for Town Meeting in October.
What is the difference between a brew pub and a microbrewery?
A brew pub is essentially an eat-in restaurant that also brews and sells its own beer. A microbrewery has a different business model in which the production and sale of beer is the primary use.
Will breweries be required to serve food?
Under the proposed changes to the Select Board’s alcohol regulations, a brew pub must operate similarly to a full-service restaurant while a microbrewery will be required to make food available, however, it may be supplied by a food truck visiting the establishment, through an outside caterer, through the sale of pre-packaged food items, and/or by the limited menu of food items that are prepared by the microbrewery on site.
Who licenses the manufacturing of beer in Massachusetts?
To open a brewery in Massachusetts, a prospective brewer must first select a site and show proof to federal and state regulators that the zoning at the site allows for such use. The business then seeks federal approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (ATTTB) to manufacture alcohol. After this federal permit is obtained, the business must then apply to the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) for a license to manufacture and distribute their beer. There are two state licensing options, under M.G.L. c.138, a 19C Farmer-Brewery license or a 19D Pub Brewery license. Under these licenses, the ABCC determines all conditions relative to the production and sale of alcohol for off-premises consumption.
What authority does the Town of Needham have to regulate breweries?
The Select Board is the local licensing authority for the Town of Needham. All breweries must be granted a license from the Select Board to sell alcohol to consumers for on-premises consumption. A Pub Brewery licensee (brew pubs) would seek a Section 12 license from the Select Board, the same license required by restaurants to serve alcohol in Needham. A Farmer-Brewery licensee (microbreweries) must obtain a Farmers Series Pouring Permit from the Select Board. The proposed changes to the Board’s regulations adds a new section to create rules and regulations applicable to Farmer Series Pouring Permittees (see Section X).
Will the liquor license granted to a brewery be counted towards the Town’s license quota from the state?
A microbrewery will be required to obtain a different type of license from the Town, a section 19C Farmers Series Pouring Permit, which will not count towards the Town’s quota of liquor licenses. Brew pubs will be required to obtain a section 12 liquor license from the Select Board which is the same type of license required by restaurants in Needham to serve alcohol, therefore, it will count towards the Town’s quota of liquor licenses.
Will breweries be treated the same as restaurants as it relates to alcohol service standards and safety requirements?
Yes. The same regulations that are required of restaurants which have alcohol licenses will also be required of both brew pubs and microbreweries including hours of operation for on-premises consumption, alcohol safety training requirements for staff and managers, penalties for license violations, and licensing fees.
What will be changing for existing alcohol license holders?
There in one proposed change to the Select Board’s alcohol regulations that would impact existing alcohol license holders. This change is in section 4.6.12, which would require that “Licensees shall make all reasonable and diligent efforts to ensure that loitering, disorder, disturbances or illegality of any kind does not occur at the licensed premises. The licensee shall ensure that business in the licensed premises is conducted in a responsible manner so that no activity shall detract from the quality of life in the Town generally, or in the neighborhood in which the licensed premises are located. The licensee may be held responsible for such activity, whether present or not. Licensees shall at all times maintain the immediate and surrounding area outside the licensed premises in a state of cleanliness and upkeep”.