When longtime Ridgefield businessman Robert Kaye decided to try getting into the beer-making business, he found that along with the usual state and federal licensing, he’d need approval from the town. The problem was that Ridgefield’s Planning and Zoning Commission did not allow a brewery or brewpub along the Route 7 corridor.
So Kaye and his attorney, Robert Jewell of Ridgefield law firm Donnelly, McNamara & Gustafson, asked for an amendment to Ridgefield’s existing zoning laws. The request was granted relatively easily – in 3½ months from start to finish — in the sort of episode that flies in the face of most people’s expectations of cutting through miles of bureaucratic red tape to get something done.
“I knew we were in a B-2 commercial zone, which allows for restaurants,” Kaye said. “But there was nothing written in the code for a brewery. Bob had to come up with some language to cover this type of usage and it went from there.”
“It wasn’t about changing the zoning rules as much as it was adding an amendment to them,” Jewell said. “We spoke with (the planning and zoning commission) before filing the paperwork and decided that adding a definition of a brewery that included ‘brewpub,’ which is what my client wanted to build, was the best solution. Since it’s in an industrial area, there wasn’t any question of it being ‘offensive’ to residents.”
Members of the planning and zoning commission could not be reached for comment.
Ridgefield’s move is similar to one that Berlin, Conn.’s planning and zoning commission undertook last May. Tolland and Stonington have also revised their statutes over the past several months to allow breweries and/or brewpubs in certain areas. Jewell said that he believes “a lot of towns” around the state will begin doing the same to get in on the mushrooming brewpub business.
A Redding resident, Kaye’s plans are to add what he’s calling the Nod Hill Brewery to the 32,000-square-foot building he owns at 137 Ethan Allen Highway, long the home of his Riverside Fence.
“Our tenants have filled up the building pretty well,” he said, “but we’ve got about 3,000 square feet total for Nod Hill.”
Other tenants include a psychologist and a showroom for furniture store Good Earth Millworks.
Kaye said Nod Hill will take up about 2,400 square feet for its brewing and storage facility, with another 500 square feet set aside for a tap room. “There won’t be any food,” he said. “It’s all about the beer.”
The nascent brewmaster said his venture was driven “by a passion for beer, which my son and I both have, as does my wife as well.”
Kaye said his research included a market study of breweries near Ridgefield, including the types of beers being made. “We saw this as a terrific opportunity,” he said.
Another brewer, The Ridge Brewing Co., has been mulling the possibility of opening a microbrewery and brewpub at 21 Governor St., about four miles from Kaye’s property.
Kaye said that he’s taking bids for construction of Nod Hill and hopes to have everything in place for an October or November opening.