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Starving Artist Brewing seeks permit for outdoor beer garden

March 2, 2019 GMT

AMBER TWP. — Starving Artist Brewing is hoping to expand its presence in the local business community by serving pints of craft beer at a small, outdoor beer garden at owner Andy Thomas’ 634 S. Stiles Road property.

The company has applied for a special land use permit for the expansion, which Thomas said would include outdoor seating and parking spaces for a maximum of 25 people.

The Mason County Planning Commission will review the request at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Mason County Airport, 5300 W. U.S. 10.

“We’re kind of trying to figure out the next chapter in Starving Artist and what it would look like, and we decided it’s time to start serving pints,” Thomas said.

Starving Artist received a home-based business permit when Thomas first sought approval to begin craft beer production in 2014, according to Mason County Zoning and Building Director Brady Selner. The business is now hoping to be re-zoned as an agribusiness — a new zoning use classification as of summer 2018 — which includes microbreweries.

The new zoning class would allow Starving Artist to do more with its business than production.

“They were permitted as a home-based business back in 2014, and under that permit, there were a lot of things they couldn’t do that they want to do with this new use,” Selner said. “They’re looking to do more events and things like that under the agribusiness.”

Currently, Starving Artist is licensed to serve indoors for beer-tastings, according to Thomas, but he said he wants to expand the brewery’s options with the county’s approval.

“Our current license already allows us to serve on the premises,” he said. “According to the State of Michigan, we’re already allowed to do that … we’re just looking to cross our Ts, dot our Is and keep the county in the loop to make sure we’re being diplomatic about it, because we’re all in this together.”

The special land use request is to seek permission to use portions of the 5-acre Amber Township property for parking and to ensure that the business is properly zoned for outdoor alcohol consumption.

“As far as what we’re seeking the special land use for, it’s mostly (to get the county) to allow us to use the property for parking,” Thomas said. “And that we have an outdoor beer garden of sorts out there, even if it’s just a couple picnic tables.”

Thomas said that the plan — if the permit is approved by the planning commission — is to have a small outdoors area where patrons can get together and enjoy what the brewery has to offer.

“It’s going to be a very quiet operation still. We want to leave a very little footprint here,” he said. “We’re trying to be good stewards and good neighbors.”

Thomas announced his plans to seek the special use permit via social media on Feb. 17.

“We have officially made the next step and requested special land use to open a beer garden and start serving pints at our brewery location,” he stated, asking for friends and patrons to support the request by submitting a letter to the zoning board at 102 E. Fifth St., Scottville, or coming to Tuesday’s planning commission meeting.

Selner said the planning commission could either approve, ask for more details or deny the request on Tuesday.

Thomas said he’s anticipating a positive response from planners as well as from the State of Michigan — which will have to inspect and approve the area before it can open — but noted that it will take some time to complete setup for the outdoor space.

He said he hopes to launch the beer garden by Memorial Day weekend, with some soft opening events beforehand to “test the waters.”

Thomas said he’s looking forward to expanding the successful business he started in 2015.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m nervous, but if you’re not scared, you’re not working.”