Pemby farmers say 'agri-brewery' sounds great — so long as it doesn't keep them up 

Concerns raised about late night noise and drunk driving

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JAY PAUL KAWATSKI - Something brewing The Miller family intends to open Pemberton Valley BrewWorks on their property, but some locals are apprehensive about the proposal.
  • Photo by Jay Paul Kawatski
  • Something brewing The Miller family intends to open Pemberton Valley BrewWorks on their property, but some locals are apprehensive about the proposal.

A long-time Pemberton farming family is set to open a brewery and lounge on its property.

And while neighbouring farmers are looking forward to a beautiful spot to grab a quality brew, some are concerned that it will operate too late, leading to noise issues and drunk driving.

"The Millers have been here for generations, and this is the next step in their evolution," said Sarah Stewart, who operates Root Down Organic Farm, a small-scale farm located close to the brewery, which sits on Pemberton Meadows Road.

"I think it's great — as long as it doesn't keep me up until 2 a.m. every night."

The Millers are, in fact, applying for a license that will allow them to operate until 2 a.m., seven days a week.

For Stewart and others, that's too late.

"It's a bar at that point. And people aren't going there to taste, but to drink," she said.

Stewart is not alone in her concerns. Anna Helmer, president of the Pemberton Farmer's Institute, is also apprehensive about the plan.

"Quite a few members have expressed concern about hours — but everybody supports a brewery," she said.

"It's a narrow valley with high mountains. The noise bounces around. We can hear a neighbour's potato truck 20 kilometres away."

In recent years, some farmers have chafed under the noise generated by farm weddings, a growing business in Pemberton, and short-term renters, who are in the area to party, rather than wake up early to drive tractors.

A closing time of 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends would be more reasonable, said Stewart.

"That's generally the time we go to bed," she said.

According to Will Miller — the Miller who is in charge of the business end of the project (mom is the brewer) — the plan for now is to operate until around 11 p.m. in the summer and 10 p.m. in the winter.

That said, the Millers want the "freedom" to be able to operate on a different schedule if it makes sense from a financial point of view.

"We want the freedom to decide what are the most profitable hours for us to operate," he said.

Applying for a late-night license also makes sense when it comes to special events, said Miller.

"If we have a special event, we won't have to apply for a special events permit to be open later," he said. "It's good to have that leeway."

The brewery, called Pemberton Valley BeerWorks, is applying for seating for 120 people, both inside and outside, though Miller said he is anticipating considerably smaller crowds than that.

He noted that his family has been farming in the Pemberton Valley since the late 1800s, and that they intend to take steps to ensure there are no noise disturbances after 11 p.m.

"It's a neighbourhood business — we have to operate in the confines of what makes everyone happy, as long as their requests are reasonable," said Miller.

The farm is already growing barley, with the project slated to become the first local brewery to produce beer from 100 per cent homegrown ingredients, he explained in an email to Pique.

BeerWorks is expected to be a major draw to the area, a destination brewery and a fixture on the Slow Food Cycle.

"As a growing town, you need to open your doors and really have something to offer," explained Miller.

"We have the same interest as other locals. We want to have something to for visitors when they come out here."

The brewery was made possible by a change at the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), a provincial body that draws up regulation for farmland.

Farmers are now allowed to open up breweries provided they grow half of the product used to make the beer.

What happens next, however, depends on both the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) and the provincial Liquor Control and Licensing Branch.

The SLRD will write a report and pass a resolution on the project, which it will then be forwarded to the branch for consideration.

The SLRD has queried neighbours located within a one-kilometre range of the project and tapped the SLRD's Agricultural Advisory Committee (AAC) for feedback.

On Oct. 18, it passed a resolution in support of a liquor licence "in principle."

The resolution, however, included a number of caveats that highlight farmer's concerns.

"The proposed hours of operation and liquor service are too broad — 2 a.m. is too late to be serving alcohol in an active farming area," reads one.

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