Two Sergeants Brewery stuck in bureaucratic mess as it works to open Edmonton location

Edmontonians looking to open new brew pub run into unanticipated costs
WATCH ABOVE: An Edmonton business is looking at delays and thousands of dollars in unanticipated costs. As Tom Vernon reports, they're working to open a new brew pub but are simply stuck in the wrong zone.

An Alberta brewer working for months to relocate into a new space near Edmonton’s brewery district finds itself stuck in a bureaucratic headache that’s led to thousands of dollars in unanticipated costs.

“The biggest delay in us opening right now is permitting,” Two Sergeants Brewing founder Kevin Moore said from the company’s under-construction space on 105 Avenue, near 119 Street.

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The brewery opened in 2015 in Fort Saskatchewan, but earlier this year made the decision to move into Edmonton in order to expand operations. The new Edmonton location — which used to be a restaurant — is bigger and will have a full kitchen. As a brew pub, the idea is to run both sides of the business as one entity.

“One bay will be the brewery itself, and then on this side where I’m standing right now will be a restaurant,” Moore said. However, a zoning problem is preventing that — meaning they will need two separate business and liquor licenses to operate.

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Last fall, the City of Edmonton created a “breweries, wineries and distilleries” zoning classification to try to prevent these types of problems. The city even rezoned large sections of the city like Old Strathcona and the Brewery District at 104 Avenue and 120 Street.

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But Two Sergeants falls just 17 feet north of the Brewery District — which means they are now going through the process to get the property rezoned. Moore said he’s been trying since June to get permits in order.

“Permitting, licensing — costs a lot of money,” Moore told Global News.

In a post on Facebook, the brewery explained that before the new classification was introduced, breweries were permitted under “light industrial” zoning, and the space they leased allowed both that and a restaurant/bar. But with the new category, the city insisted Two Sergeants apply for re-zoning.

“The difference between a development permit and a re-zoning application is significant,” Moore explained in a post on Two Sergeant’s Facebook page.

“The rezoning process — which we’ll have to follow so we can combine our business to one single operation — is a six-month process and upwards of $10,000,” Moore told Global News.

“Our frustration is the paperwork and bureaucracy, and most importantly, the cost.”

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Coun. Scott McKeen admitted zoning delays have been an issue for years, if not decades — but the city needs to do its due diligence and making the permitting process any faster would come with a cost.

“Businesses get really frustrated and I completely understand, [but] we would have to hire 200 more civil servants to turn these things around quickly,” McKeen said.

“I understand the frustration and trying to find a way to expedite these things is difficult,” he added.

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Moore said the city staff he has been working with have been helpful, but he wishes council and administration had thought to rezone larger sections of the city where these types of businesses make sense. Moore said more and more craft brewers are aiming to be in populated areas.

He would like to see all of Edmonton’s business and entertainment districts bulk zoned in “much the same way that Old Strathcona was.”

“We’re seven blocks from the Ice District, we’re four blocks from MacEwan, we’re another three blocks from 124th [Street.] This is a prime area to sort of bulk zone, to allow these types of businesses to come in.”

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In the meantime, Two Sergeants is looking at the idea of crowdfunding to help pay for the rezoning application. Moore said that’s a last resort, but they have put a call out on their Facebook page for feedback on the idea.

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