Brewery Start-up Series #7: When to Sign a Brewery Lease

It may seem out of order, but a brewery needs to find a place to do its commercial brewing and get a lease in place before it gets licensed to commercially brew beer.
It may seem out of order, but a brewery needs to find a place to do its commercial brewing and get a lease in place before it gets licensed to commercially brew beer.

When you’re thinking about starting a brewery, it’s easy to feel daunted by the cost of it all. As we’ve covered elsewhere, there are strategies to get around those brewery start-up costs—and oftentimes funds are out there. (See all of our Brewery Start-up Series here.) Still, no matter how you fund the brewery, a significant business expense is the commercial lease. Understandably, brewery start-ups are reluctant to sign a lease and obligate themselves to rent payments too early in the process. For those considering opening a brewery, however, it’s important to note that in order to get a license to commercially brew beer, a brewery needs a premise. The premise, along with the start-up team, is what is licensed.

Commercial Brewery Lease and Opening Timeline

In other words, the brewery’s lease comes before the licensing application. (You can check out our general Brewery Opening Timeline here.) This is the case for the federal brewery license through TTB, which you apply for through a Brewer’s Notice and filing other information about the business owners. This is also the case for states such as Washington, seeking a Washington brewery license through LCB (Liquor Control Board).

This brewery-opening timeline is important to keep in mind, as it informs a start-up brewery’s budget and brewery business plan. However, there may be creative ways to alleviate some of this pressure. For example, a brewery may be able to negotiate reduced rent with its landlord for those first months, while waiting for licenses to come through. Or, to at least give the start-up team peace of mind, the brewery’s long-term obligation to pay on the lease may be made contingent on the start-up’s ability to obtain proper licensure.

Ultimately, when putting together a brewery business plan, it’s wise to be thinking about location early in the process. Not only does licensing depend on it, but the location itself, proximity to other breweries, parking configuration, access to foot traffic, and the like, can all play important roles in how successful a particular business plan will be.


Next Brewery Start-up Series:

In our next segment of the Brewery Start-up Series, we’ll discuss common premise-licensing issues and important things to consider when reviewing a potential premise or lease.

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