Ale Works expansion wins planners’ approval

The Rappahannock County Planning Commission at its regular meeting last Wednesday (Sept. 16) approved a special exception permit for expansion of the small Ale Works brewery at Hopkins Ordinary B&B in Sperryville.

If the permit is approved by the board of supervisors Oct. 5, the Ale Works can extend its service hours and establish an outdoor beer garden on the B&B’s property.

Hopkins co-owner Sherri Fickel told the commission that she and co-owner Kevin Kraditor “seek to expand the service hours and allow more customers from outside the B&B.” She emphasized that they were not asking to expand the current production capacity of just 5,000 gallons a year (or about a barrel and a half a week).

Ale Works is now open to the public 10 hours a week and otherwise by appointment or to B&B guests. The application requests expanding the brewery’s hours to no more than 35 over any two-week period. “This would give us the flexibility to be open on three-day holiday weekends and early on Fridays for weekenders,” said Fickel. She and Kraditor would also like to hold limited promotional tasting events.

“Ale Works’ capacity only allows about six people inside the brewery, and there is no seating for patrons,” said Fickel, “so we are proposing a beer garden with seating for 20 on the B&B property. Guests would like to sit down and be outside.” She said that, out of sensitivity to her Sperryville neighbors, Ale Works would stop serving and lock the doors at 7 p.m. on any day it is open, and would not feature live music.

In a letter to the planning commission, County Administrator John McCarthy recommended approval of the permit, noting that “the use is an expansion of what within strict limits had been previously allowed by determination of the Zoning Administrator as an accessory use. That use has posed no concerns to adjacent owners, and this minimal expansion is in keeping with the character of the area.”

Several friends and Sperryville residents attended the meeting and spoke in support of the proposal during the public-comment portion of the meeting. Andrew Haley, co-owner of Haley Fine Art, a gallery just across Main Street, said that “far from being a disturbance, Ale Works has been an asset” to the neighborhood.

“I am an Ale Works member,” said Pete Pazmino, himself a recent petitioner to the commission for a permit to establish a guest house in Chester Gap. “It’s a place for a quiet gathering and a way to meet other people in the county.”

“Ale Works has been a huge asset to business,” said Adam Beroza, a real estate agent with Cheri Woodard Realty, another neighbor. “It has helped people fall in love with the area.”

John Lesinski, a candidate for supervisor in the Hampton district, called the proposal “a wonderful fit for the county and the business community. It seems like the kind of business we are trying to attract.”

In addition, the commission received copies of letters of support sent to McCarthy from several Sperryville business owners: Martin Woodard of Cheri Woodard Realty; Ken Thompson and family, owners of the Thornton River Grille and Corner Store; Jen Perrot, owner of Flourish Root; and Susan Huff, owner of Stonewall Abbey Yoga.

After the public-comment period, the commission members discussed the proposal briefly before voting. (At the beginning of the meeting, commissioner Jason Brady of Wakefield district presented a letter to board vice chair Gary Light to say that he, Brady, would not be recusing himself. Brady said that, although Union First Bank in Washington, where he is commercial lending manager, holds loans for Hopkins Ordinary, he has no personal interest in the B&B or Ale Works.)

Ron Frazier, the supervisors’ representative on the commission, asked how the B&B could run a brewery without prior commission approval. “I see no problem with [Ale Works] per se, just the procedure,” he said. Deputy County Administrator Debbie Keyser explained that the brewery operation had been approved last fall by McCarthy and county attorney Peter Luke as a hobby — an “accessory use” of the B&B — but that Fickel and Kraditor were seeking commission approval because of the expanded hours and seating capacity. The application also makes clear that the brewery has received state ABC and federal permits to sell and produce, respectively, alcoholic beverages.

“Ale Works seems like an apt and proper business that serves everyone and has no negative impact,” said Chris Bird, the commission’s zoning board representative.

“I tend to agree,” said Light. “It’s a perfect space, across from the Thornton River Grille that has outdoor space already.”

The commission voted unanimously to send the special-exception permit to the supervisors for final approval.

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