Brewery owners present to zoning panel

The first brewery to open in downtown Tiffin in the past 80-100 years took another step in its establishment at the Laird Arcade, 114 S. Washington St., suite D, Tuesday afternoon.

Eric Kuebler and Rob Weaver, editor at The Advertiser-Tribune, appeared in front of Tiffin’s Zoning Board of Appeals to request a use approval for a nanobrewery in the space of the former Iron Gate Cafe.

“A nanobrewery is the smallest of the breweries recognized by the government,” Kuebler explained. “It’s a primarily in-house brewery with very limited outside sales.”

Kuebler, who has 10 years of brewing experience, said he and Weaver, who has 20 years of experience, are interested in opening in Tiffin.

Weaver said the establishment would use the same ingredients a bakery would, which he argued would be approved to operate downtown under current zoning.

Tiffin City Engineer Mario Livojevic said the downtown area is considered C3 zoning. He said a nanobrewery was not addressed in the code because it is a concept. Livojevic said the board needed to clear up this ambiguity.

Board president Dennis Eberly and board members Bob Williams and David Martien voted to approve the request pending approval from the city planning commission and Tiffin City Council.

“We can’t change the zoning. That requires city council,” Eberly said, adding it is not the role of the board to create new legislation.

Williams said the board wants to make sure the law is followed.

“It’s safe to say, the board, we want you to do it,” he said. “We just want to make sure nobody can backdoor you and shut you down.”

Board members Will Heddles and Robb Mack, who were not present, would have been required to abstain, because they are members of the Community Reinvestment Group LLC, which has a conflict of interest because of its involvement with the Laird Arcade.

Eberly said the brewery still had some hoops to jump through before it could open.

Weaver said that was anticipated.

“There’s more hurdles we need to go through, regardless of if they would have been able to grant us a variance,” he said. “This, I think, will clear things up.”

Kuebler agreed.

“We expected snags and complications,” he said. “We’re moving in the right direction, one step at a time.”

Tyler Shuff, property manager at the Laird Arcade, said the next step  is to go in front of the city’s planning commission. That meeting was not yet scheduled Tuesday night.

“They will make a determination and then take it to city council,” he said.

Weaver said breweries in downtown Tiffin were common in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

“If we went out to the street corner (at City Hall, 51 E. Market St.) and threw a stone, we’d probably hit three locations where they had been prior to zoning regulations,” he said.

A release states the small commercial brewery could open in late summer or early fall.

An adjacent taproom is to offer six flagship brews available year-round and a similar number of seasonal beers on a rotating basis.

Weaver said food will not be served, outside of snacks, because he said he hopes the establishment can complement other downtown businesses.

Shuff said there are four eateries in the Laird building.

“It’s going to be a draw for everybody,” Shuff said. “(Downtown businesses) can kind of feed off each other. They have a complementing clientele.”