Grains of Wisdom

Grains of Wisdom

Let’s talk about hospitality, shall we?  Every client has a unique vision of who they are and what they want their restaurant/bar/taproom to be.  Beneath the outward expression of that vision is a lot of far less sexy planning and technical complication.  Breweries bring their own quirks to the table.  We’ve addressed many of these challenges through the years and they’ve become second nature.  Here’s a six-pack of things we’ve learned:

1.  A Strange Brew – A brewery isn’t just like a bar or restaurant in the eyes of the code.  Due to the combination of tasting room and manufacturing uses, new brewery buildouts are almost always considered a Change of Use.  That might not sound like a big deal, but it prompts a much greater level of scrutiny by the authorities having jurisdiction.  You typically can’t eliminate those additional requirements so it’s critical to have an experienced team that identifies them early to eliminate surprises and allow you to plan for them.

2. Hot Stuff – Fire sprinklers are an expensive upgrade and no fun to spend money on when compared to lighting, furniture, and signage.  It doesn’t take much to trigger a sprinkler requirement and if you aren’t prepared for it, you’re suddenly shedding square footage, eliminating seats, or buying a lot of fire rated drywall to separate yourself from other tenants (and worse, closing off your brewing area).  This requirement can typically be identified during an initial walk through on a space before you even sign a lease, if you know what to look for.

3. Holes in the Head – In many lease deals, the landlord will pay for two bathrooms, typically single occupant (often referred to as ‘one-holers’.)  If a brewery’s occupancy is greater than 80 people (don’t forget to count the patio) you bump up to two holes each.  A typical restaurant doesn’t make that jump until 150 occupants.  If a change like that catches you by surprise late in the game it can chew up valuable square footage and a surprising amount of money.  If you can, negotiate for ‘code compliant bathrooms’ rather than a specific number of fixtures.

4. Refrigeration – Don’t buy used equipment.  I know it’s expensive.  I know there is a lot of secondhand equipment available.  In our experience it just isn’t a place to save money.  Code requirements for coolers have changed since the boom of craft breweries began.  If you don’t have firm documentation of the cooler you’ve bought, it can be difficult to get approved during the review process.  And you certainly don’t want the risk of a condenser failing in late July with serving vessels full of beer, no warranty, and no one to call.

5. Your Mileage May Vary – Comparing other breweries and their development experiences is tricky business.  Whether it’s parking, health department requirements, or construction budgets, every brewery is different.  Assuming that something will be approved because you’ve seen it in another place creates a recipe for frustration.

6. Got the Time? – Finally, don’t underestimate the time required for your project.  For most people new to the process, design, permit review, and construction can take weeks and often months longer than expected.  Understanding that can prevent you from making premature decisions that cost you money, like paying storage costs on equipment or losing staff who committed too soon and have to move on.


Denver’s craft beer scene is vibrant and filled with passionate, creative, hardworking people who invest much more than money into what they do. Check out and enjoy our clients and friends at Kokopelli, Factotum, Spangalang, Halfpenny, CO Brew, Banded Oak, and (soon) Woods Boss. Cheers!