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How to start a Brandon brewpub

Alright people, let's get cracking.

The Manitoba Liquor Control Commission tweeted out on Wednesday a link (pdf) to their brewpub requirments, so I figure now is a good time to re-open the conversation.

You may recall that brewpubs got tossed around during the last municipal election — both Dave Burgess and Shari Decter Hirst said that the old downtown firehall would make a great location.

Unfortunately, at the time, such an idea was illegal.

Then, a little while later, the MLCC actually changed the laws to create a special class of liquor license specifically designed for brewpubs.

And now, they're ready to accept applications.

Sadly, there is a dumb amount of hoops to jump through. Here, take a look:

Brew Pub Licence Brochure Final

I can understand why you have to be licensed by the government to produce an intoxicant. I can understand why they might want assurances that you're not a criminal, and that you've taken their "Safe Service" course (common-sense cash grab though I'm sure it is).

But it boggles my mind that they would want to vet your business plan, first.

A quick perusal of the same pamphlet for other types of liquor licenses doesn't show the same requirement.

If you want to open a restaurant, no need for a business plan to be submitted to the government. To the bank, maybe, if you're taking out a loan. To your business partners or shareholders, sure.

But the government doesn't get to tell you whether or not you'll be successful before granting you a license.

Why this hurdle for brewpubs? Because, frankly, the only way I could afford to start one is if a bunch of other people try to start one first, but go belly up, and have to sell me their brewing equipment at rock-bottom prices.

I'm also concerned that the brewpub license seems to be an "add-on" only if you have another type of license. So you can't just go out and start a brewpub -- you have to ensure that you fit into one of the other liquor license categories first.

This leaves most of my concerns about liquor licenses absolutely unchanged.

Want to serve beer — even if you brew it yourself? You need to also have:

  • A hotel (so you qualify for a beverage room license)
  • A restaurant (so you qualify for a dining room license and possibly a cocktail lounge license)
  • Continual live entertainment (so you qualify for a cabaret license)

Sure, I can see why the "pub" part of a brewpub requires a license that also serves food. But your classic brewpub would require not just the brewpub license, but a dining room license and a cocktail lounge license.

Seems a little over-the-top to me.

That said, I'm still excited about the possibility of a brewpub in Brandon. I think the old downtown fire hall is an excellent location (for a number of reasons).

I even registered the domain name because my dream brew pub would also serve killer poutine.

I also have some ideas on how to start one, even on my modest salary. Think crowd-sourcing. Think Kickstarter. Think co-ops.

More to come, but to whet your whistle, would you chip in a couple hundred bucks to be a part-owner of a brewpub?

I sure would.

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