Kettlehouse Brewing Co. is almost free to grow its Myrtle Street operation.
On Wednesday, a Missoula City Council committee said yes to a permit the brewery requested, but councilors recommended conditions including a controversial one that sets closing time at 10 p.m. because the taproom is in a neighborhood. The full council will take up the matter Monday.
Currently, the taproom stops serving pints at 8 p.m. and growlers at 9 p.m., and owner Tim O’Leary said he hasn’t yet decided whether he will change his hours of operation. But he wants to expand wholesale, and in order to do so, he must separate his taproom business from the production business.
The separation has him looking to use a beer and wine license on the taproom side, and the change required a permit from the council. The brewery just off the Hip Strip is a popular watering hole, but it faces a residential neighborhood, and some neighbors have aired concerns about parking, noise and aesthetics.
Councilman Alex Taft, who lives just three blocks away, said the area is a blend of homes and businesses, and he appreciates its diverse character.
“I like the fact that there’s commercial and residential all jumbled together,” Taft said. “I think it has a lot of vitality.”
But it might have too much vitality for the taste of some neighbors if people can drink there late. Currently, the business is a microbrewery and must stop serving pints at 8 p.m. under state law; the permit the committee approved would allow the taproom to operate as a tavern – and stay open until 2 a.m., according to the Development Services Office.
Taft said he wants O’Leary to succeed, but he also wants to protect homeowners. To keep neighbors happy, he believes the 10 p.m. curfew is a sensible solution because it aligns with the noise ordinance.
“To keep you here, to keep the neighborhood vital, to keep the residents welcoming commercial interests in the area, I think we have to do something like that,” Taft said.
The majority of the committee agreed, but the 10 p.m. shutdown was controversial. O’Leary said while he’s agreeable to it, the value of beer and wine licenses goes up and down with the market, and a curfew might affect the perceived value of the next license up for sale.
Councilors Mike O’Herron and Adam Hertz strongly objected to the 10 p.m. closure. O’Herron said if the council wants to limit a tavern’s hours of operation to deal with problems that come with inebriation, it should do so for the entire city. So he isn’t in favor of limiting the hours on one particular shop.
Hertz agreed, and he said Flipper’s Casino operates just a couple of blocks away, and it’s allowed to stay open until 2 a.m.
“To me, it just seems incredibly unfair that we would single out just this one business,” Hertz said.
The matter will come to the full council at its regular meeting 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 4, in Council Chambers, 140 W. Pine St.