To the Editor:
Ken Warfield and I own the property at the corner of Memorial Drive and Rt 9 in Barnegat which is the proposed site of a new microbrewery business causing some controversy in town. We love this town and feel the need to explain what our intentions are in suggesting such a business for Barnegat. This is a copy of the Public Comment that we submitted to the Barnegat Township Committee to be read at their meeting on May 5th, 2020.
Dear Township Committee,
My name is Jamie Griffin. I live at 100 Lower Shore Road and I miss the good old days when we could see each other and have a conversation :)
Ken Warfield and I have lived and worked in Barnegat for 36 years. We love this town and appreciate all that it and its residents have done for our family and our business, Living Landscapes for all these years.
We own the lot at the corner of Memorial Drive and Rt. 9 where Candiqueen's used to be and are the landlords seeking to rent our property to a microbrewery business.
We want to make sure that the towns' people know that we all loved Candiqueen's and were sorry to see them go, but respected that Gwyn and George decided to close the business, so they could spend more time together. After they left, we put the property up for rent again. When we were initially approached by the owners of Beer Naked Ladies Brewing Co. we've got to say we cringed at the name too!
We had worked with the family of the applicants for years however, and knew them to be from a local, hardworking family of builders and real estate agents on Long Beach Island.
Avery Hodgson, who is the applicant here, was raised in Surf City by a family who believes in local service to their town. She was a state champion basketball player for Southern and makes a living as a coach at OCC today. Her mother, Ursula Hodgson owns Forest Edge Farm, a stable in Little Egg Harbor that provides riding lessons and economic support to children who want to become equestrians. This business does not bring a windfall to the family, it is a labor of volunteerism and love.
This is how Avery was raised.
Since we already knew the family and knew Avery to be steeped in a spirit of community service, we took a second look at the microbrewery idea, in spite of the name Beer Naked Ladies Brewing.
We found that the microbrewery business is booming in this country. We found that it is more about history, culture and region than it is about drinking. Each microbrewery has it's own identity, ingredients and recipes. It's considered more of a craft or an art than a means to become inebriated. It's about quality not quantity. We found that the emphasis is on tasting a new brew and then buying it and taking it home rather than sitting and drinking at the establishment.
Every town around us has a microbrewery: Stafford, Long Beach Island, Little Egg, Waretown and Forked River all have microbreweries already and have no complaints about them. They rarely have more than 5 or 6 cars at a time and if they do it's because they are hosting a community event, a family game night, or a fundraiser which microbreweries are known for as common practice.
The best part about microbreweries is that people who already enjoy the microbrewery in their own town are still interested in visiting the microbrewery in another town, because the brews vary from town to town and region to region. The brewers themselves also support each other's efforts knowing that as they grow individually, they grow together as an industry as well.
What this means for Barnegat is that even if someone frequents a microbrewery in Little Egg or Forked River, they will still be interested to visit the one in Barnegat. It's like visiting the studios of different artists. in the same vein, the craft brew enthusiasts who visit the shore, will be interested to visit our shore microbreweries as well, even if they already frequent one at home.
What this could mean for Barnegat is an increase in the number of people who come to visit, year round. Ken and I know from having been in business along Rt. 9 in Barnegat for the past 36 years, that this area struggles from a lack of people and traffic. It seems to us that a business that can draw people not only to Barnegat, but to this particular part of Barnegat would be a plus for an area that has consistently seen traffic dwindle over the past few decades.
When a few people on the Planning Board reacted negatively to the idea of Beer Naked Ladies Brewing last week, Avery's initial reaction was to withdraw the application, because far from wanting to upset people, they are looking for a home for their business. They are looking for a town that will allow them to create a place where sports teams can fund raise, families can have a movie night, the Antique Car clubs can congregate and we can fund raise for people in need.
Our understanding from engineer acquaintances is that the difference in the zoning for a brewpub (as the ordinance currently reads) and a microbrewery would likely be a de minimis exception. I'm not a lawyer, but in my understanding, that means that the distinction between the two is too minor to even merit consideration. What's more, a microbrewery is primarily a place to taste and to purchase craft beer to be enjoyed at home unlike a brewpub which is actually selling their beer for consumption on the premises. In other words, a microbrewery is less intrusive.
Ken and I hate to see the applicants give up so quickly as we have talked to many people individually and found them to be in support of having a microbrewery in town. Neither do we want to ignore the concerns of people who have a right to their opinion and live here as well. We just ask, that we not dismiss the idea summarily just because we object to the name, but really give both the idea and these particular people a chance, because they are exactly the type of people that we might want to consider welcoming into our business community.
PS: The name Beer Naked Ladies Brewing is not just a reference to the 90's band Bare Naked Ladies, but is a historical reference as well to Twickenham Fine Ales, a brewery in England that is credited with the whole craft beer revival. They came up with a brew called Naked Ladies Beer that was so successful that it went national in England. This brew was named after a beloved public park called Twickenham Green that is known for it's mermaid sculptures and fountains affectionately referred to by locals as the "Naked Ladies." This company was also one of the first to begin using American Hops. The name Beer Naked Ladies Brewing then is not about shock value, as much as it is a name that will actually have meaning to craft beer enthusiasts as well as being easy to remember for those who recall the band. Food for thought.
Thank you for your time!