Voters said yes, so Bloomington is preparing a city code amendment that will open the door for brewers looking to tap into the local craft beer market.

The Bloomington City Council will consider the code amendment during its Feb. 24 meeting. The amendment is more of a rewrite of chapter 13 than fine-tuning of the existing language, and it’s a step toward permitting taprooms – businesses that brew and sell their own beer – in the city.

This past fall, the city offered a charter amendment on its ballot, asking if the City Charter should be amended to remove the section regulating intoxicating liquor. By doing so, the council would be allowed to adopt ordinances authorizing additional types of establishments that serve and sell alcohol in the city, such as taprooms.

More than 77% of voters approved the charter amendment, easily eclipsing the 55% required.

Approval of the charter amendment didn’t automatically permit taprooms, it simply gave the city council the ability to consider licensing such establishments, something the council had been unable to do under the charter.

The council’s first order of business, the city code amendment, is a modernization and streamlining of the regulations pertaining to alcohol sales, according to Doug Junker, the city’s license examiner.

The next step will address zoning regulations for taprooms, scheduled for consideration during the Planning Commission’s March 5 meeting. Recommended zoning code amendments are scheduled for the council’s April 6 meeting, Junker noted.

Current zoning allows breweries in the city’s industrial districts – sans taprooms – which limits them to areas including a portion of southwestern Bloomington, the industrial area on either side of Interstate 35W near 94th Street, parcels along the east side of Lyndale Avenue, north of 95th Street, and a few scattered parcels along the Interstate 494 corridor. Taproom licensing would likely reflect an ordinance update allowing them by conditional-use permit in many commercial districts, notably those along I-494 and in the South Loop District that includes Mall of America, according to City Planner Shawn James. A few other commercial nodes would also be open to taproom consideration, he added.

A taproom proposal in the commercial districts would require an application process, including a public hearing and council approval, he noted.

Other issues that will need to be addressed include parking accommodations, off-street loading dock provisions and the limitations, if any, on retail space within a taproom for a gift shop, according to James. Standards addressing those issues already exist and may be amended to address taproom applications, he said.

Other zoning issues the Planning Commission will consider include outdoor patio standards and odor control, he added.

The consideration will cover both taprooms, dedicated to beer and malt liquor brewing, and cocktail rooms, dedicated to distilling.

Taprooms will be subject to state laws, which allow both on-site and limited off-sale consumption. The challenge for any business owner interested in opening a taproom in Bloomington will be finding a location that provides adequate parking for the retail side of the business, particularly in industrial districts, Junker said.

Information about the city’s code amendment proposal is available online at tr.im/taproom.

Follow Bloomington community editor Mike Hanks on Twitter at @suncurrent and on Facebook at suncurrentcentral.

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