Rule change could mean more craft brews


Ardent Craft Ale founders Tom Sullivan, Kevin O’Leary and Paul Karns.

A change to a city ordinance could make it easier for craft breweries to launch in Richmond.

The planning commission will vote today on a proposal to allow breweries to operate in parts of the city zoned for light industrial use. Approval would mean craft breweries could operate in places such as Scott’s Addition and pockets of Manchester.

As the city zoning stands now, breweries are not on the list of accepted industries in those parts of the city.

Richmond planning director Mark Olinger said city staff members started discussing the ordinance several months ago, once it became clear the industry was growing locally.

Several of the area’s newest craft breweries have set up shop outside of the city, including in Henrico County, Ashland and Goochland.

“We wanted to make it possible for this growing segment of the economy to operate in the city of Richmond,” Olinger said. “We’re trying to be proactive about it.”

The new zoning rule would allow any craft brewery that produces less than 100,000 barrels of beer a year to open in the city, Olinger said.

There’s at least one fledgling brewery that could benefit right away from the change.

Paul Karns, co-founder of Ardent Craft Ales, said the startup brewery has been working since late last year to change the ordinance. The three co-founders brew out of a garage in Church Hill, but they’ve been looking for a more permanent setup in Scott’s Addition.

“For a long time, the city equated breweries with Anheuser-Busch,” Karns said. “That company has a lot of equipment and needs a heavy industrial space. But craft breweries are a different breed.”

Karns said that Ardent has been eyeing a few locations in one of the city’s light industrial districts and that the company plans to close on a building their capital raise is complete.

If the planning commission approves the change, city council will vote on it March 25. Olinger said it would take effect immediately upon adoption.

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Joey Burnett
Joey Burnett
7 years ago

The City of Richmond making it easier for businesses to operate. That sounds great.

7 years ago
Reply to  Joey Burnett


john hughes, sr.
john hughes, sr.
7 years ago

How much does it cost a craft brewery to operate in Richmond, including the fees associated with the VA ABC BOARD?