Melbourne’s Deeds Brewing has launched a petition to drum up local support for its application for a taproom after a year and a half of grappling with the council over its plans.
The Deeds team have scaled back the taproom plans at their Glen Iris brewery. They were given the green light for a brewery last year, but plans for an on-site bar were rejected by the local council.
Co-founder Patrick Alé said the process of getting a taproom has been a “long saga”.
“We originally applied for a taproom and a brewery back in 2016,” Alé explained.
The initial plans were ambitious, including a brewery and bar with room for 350 patrons.
“It had the local area initially worried, but from going back and forth with the council they were happy to support us for 250 [patrons], then it went to councillors, and they voted against us, 4 for it and 5 against.
“Just because of the way it works they rejected the permit, and we had to go to VCAT. The member wasn’t supportive so she threw the whole thing out, and didn’t even give us a permit for the brewery.”
The VCAT process is another way to address planning rejections.
“It’s kind of like a court you could probably say, anything that gets rejected from a planning perspective will go there, you go before a member and plead your case, and the council defends its position to reject you,” explained Alé.
“It’s a costly exercise, you’ve got to get traffic engineers, sound engineers, all of these experts to give evidence.
“We spent a year and a half with nothing at the end of it, it was a bit of a nightmare and cost us quite a bit of time and money, we had this site we couldn’t do anything with.”
However the Deeds team have regrouped, and submitted an updated application for their taproom three weeks ago, which is now under public consultation.
The new bar plans allow for fewer patrons, this time 150 down from the initial 350, which also means that parking provisions are downsized – covering two of the main objections.
Having a taproom
Alé said that they initially dropped the “contentious” taproom plans, and once they did they were approved for the brewery.
Construction on the brewery began in late 2018, and while it is nearing completion and brewing began in February 2019, they didn’t give up on their taproom dreams.
“Obviously we’ve always wanted the taproom as part of it, as a way to get people to come in and experience our brand and try our beers and also the food side of it.
“I was intending on having a kitchen in here, so we’d have some really nice food to go with the beer and the design of the taproom and everything I think will be awesome for the area.
“We always wanted to do it so we’ve gone back in and applied for the taproom, doing some things differently like engaging the local community as well as our fans and people around us for a bit of support.”
He said that while the popularity of brewpubs continued to grow, other brewers should be aware of the issues that come with applying for both an industrial and retail use.
“You’re dealing with two balls in the air, the brewery which has complaints, noise and smells, and the taproom has complaints, you have the two uses and end up with potentially more objections.
“When we went for the brewery itself, we only had one objection, when we went for the taproom and brewery, we had 12.”
It has already been full steam ahead for Deeds’ wholesale, with beers available through their online store, bottle shops and bars directly and through distributors, and its Double Time DDH Pale Ale is sold at Dan Murphy’s, Coles and First Choice.
“We’re selling plenty of product, and there’s a definite benefit there, but with the way craft beer segment is going, you obviously need the brewery, but also a taproom for people to experience and taste it.
“We have a lot of limited editions that have come out this year and we will continue next year and we want to give someone who comes to our taproom something new to experience every time they come and it’s a great way to do it.”
Now that the team have something to show for their hard work, Alé is hoping that community support will make the difference.
“What surprised us was that there were plenty of people that were really positive about it, but what we’re doing now, we are engaging the local community a lot more. Now we’re established as a brewery we’ve had quite a few brewery tours with people in the local area just to get them in here to have a look at it.
“Once you’re here, it’s hard to say we’ve not done a good job and it will be great for the area, it’s not a hodge podge setup, it’s a genuinely good-looking brewery and will have good facilities for families and the community and that’s lacking in this area.”
He said some concerns related to the fact that the areas were traditionally dry areas, with few bars or pubs. In fact, the only local watering hole around, Alé said, was the East Malvern RSL, which has recently been forced to close its doors.
“If you want to catch up with friends or have some really good quality craft beers there’s nowhere to go,” he said.
“There’s a bit of a traditional and older vibe to the area, but that’s slowly changing as the younger demographic coming in.
“Petitions aren’t everything but they show that there’s a bit more demand for this than people might think.
“Councillors are supposed to be the representatives of the local area, so seeing that people are keen on this, and there are a fair few numbers of people signing the petitions, they [will hopefully] realise this is something they want in the area.”
He said that encouraging responsible drinking was a major concern for Deeds, and the site they have found is close to an array of transport links.
“We’re literally next door to the train station, there’s a bus stop right in front of us, we’ve got bike racks as part of it, a shared parking spot you can get your Uber or taxi to drop you off,” he said.
“We’ve catered to people who want to come to a taproom, and in a location you don’t have to drive and we’d prefer you not, but if you did we’ve got 17 spots here.
“The thing about this area is that there’s nothing else like it around which is one of the reasons we thought this would be a great spot for a brewery,” he explained.