Jolly Pumpkin distillery and tasting room in the works for new Dexter location
Editor's note: The name of a council member has been corrected. Also, the council did not vote on the company's application. That's been corrected also.
Northern United Brewing Company, LLC, doing business as Jolly Pumpkin is a step closer to redeveloping the former Martinrea/Pilot building in the industrial park on Bishop Circle in Dexter as a beer, wine and small distillery that includes a tasting room.
The company currently has three locations, one in Dexter, Traverse City and Ann Arbor, and would have the Dexter location serve as its manufacturing plant for beer, spirits and wine. The plant is expected to operate round the clock, while the tasting room would be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Village Council members welcomed the new business, saying that it would bring more jobs and additional people into the village for the tasting room.
However, the restrictive hours placed on the alcohol licenses were something that Council Member Paul Cousins questioned. The former restaurant owner said that when there is a special event, say a fundraiser or perhaps an Octoberfest in the tasting room, he’d like there to be allowances for the room to be open later.
The company plans to purchase the about 85,000-square-foot former Martinrea/Pilot building at 2319 Bishop Circle East in the industrial park and relocate its headquarters from Ann Arbor to Dexter.
It plans to consolidate its brewing manufacturing to one location, said Allison Bishop, community development manager.
Manufacturing, retail and a tasting/sampling room would be housed inside the building. As part of the plan, the company has requested liquor licenses for the new location, Bishop said.
“The license they have requested for a brewery includes approval to permit on-site consumption for the tasting room,” she said.
However, zoning approval is necessary because the company is located in a research and development district, which does not currently have provisions for a tasting room.
“(Approving) the license does not circumvent zoning,” she told the Village Council in requesting guidance from elected official regarding how to proceed with the tasting/sampling aspect of the company’s plan.
“The applicant has requested that the village proceed with the liquor license approval due to the time that it takes (with the state) to complete the process,” she told the Village Council, while staff, and the Planning Commission, work through the zoning issues.
Currently, the village does not have clear zoning rules for a tasting/sampling room in the research and development district, but the Planning Commission could review the tasting room plans as “an accessory use to the brewing operation,” as a permitted or special use or, add the manufacturing of beverages and accessory tasting/sampling rooms to the permitted uses within the district.
The other option is to add manufacturing of beverages and tasting/sampling rooms to the permitted uses within the zoning district.
“Adding the use as a permitted land use would require that tasting or sampling rooms only be permitted when in association with the manufacturing of beverages or food,” Bishop said.
In handling a tasting room in this way, “it would reduce the potential for tasting or sampling rooms to be “a principle special use or the only land use on the property.”
“This eliminates the unknowns,” Bishop said, adding that this makes things “a little cleaner and there’s a lot less grey area for a tasting room.”
Currently, there are no plans for food sales or outdoor seating at the Dexter site.
The Planning Commission is expected to discuss the options at its meeting the first Monday in June, Bishop said.