Relaxed laws help Austin tap into microbrewery craze

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Good news for Austin microbreweries with taprooms. The rules are easing up.

The Austin City Council eased up on local regulations this week following a relaxation of state law last June, and customers couldn’t be happier the issue has come to a head.

Old codes about the definition of a cocktail lounge, or the percentage of food sales profits relative to the business were tough for proprietors to swallow. They’re now out.

“I think it’s great,” said Eli Stockwell. “Bridging the gap where you can enjoy beer where it’s brewed right on site is huge. Craft brewing is taking over.”

Many microbreweries had conjured up some clever ways around the rules to sell their suds on site. Now that won’t be necessary.

“There were ways around the rules,” said another taproom fan, Tom Saurill. “The rules didn’t make any sense, so why not change them?”

Microbreweries will still need to restrict their taproom space to 33 percent of the property size and provide onsite parking. An establishment within 540 feet or less of a single family residence will need a conditional permit.

The changes are helping Live Oak Brewing hop on board the taproom craze. Austin’s oldest continuous brewery, now entering it’s 18th year, is planning a big expansion.

Live Oak will break ground in July on 22 acres along the Colorado River north of the airport, doubling their brewing capacity. And for the first time they will offer a taproom and beer garden.

“It’s going to increase our brand awareness, our brand recognition,” manager Teresa Ueltschey said. “We’ll be a destination location, people will be able to come enjoy our beautiful garden under the Live Oak trees.”

Sharon and Charlie Mesterharm of Houston came to Austin this weekend for an extensive visit to the microbreweries in the city. The reason is simple.

“If you don’t drink draft beer,” Mesterharm said, “there wouldn’t be beer to drink, ha.”

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