In the four years since its debut, the Cape Ann Brewing Company has not only carved out a niche as one of Gloucester’s more successful small businesses, but one of its most significant as well.
That’s because, under own Jeremy Goldberg, the brewery stands as a signature example of how the city and a business can effectively work within the state’s still-limiting Designated Port Area mandates that guide any development along most of Gloucester’s harborfront. And it’s because Goldberg’s more recent steps at the popular pub —in the former Doyon’s building on Rogers Street — seem an ideal fit with the city’s Harborwalk, which passes by the brewery’s outdoor tables and a mobile bar that essentially helps to make the Harborwalk a waterside, walker-friendly streetscape.
So while the City Council weighs a permit request and considers other issues — and while some residents are raising questions about the pub’s compliance — it’s important once again that city officials wade into this with a singular goal: to work with Goldberg and the brew-pub, not against it. For while, yes, it’s important that businesses comply with local and state regulations, it’s also important for the city to emphasize that it’s willing to help a growing business continue its success, not take a hard line and crack down in a way that would jeopardize its operation, or perhaps drive it elsewhere.
At the core of the permit question is the installation of an awning system with a roof and a mobile outdoor bar that indeed segues into the city’s Harborwalk.
Goldberg said he put the awning up over the pub’s deck seating last year, figuring it was temporary enough not to affect the permit.
But it has sides that can turn the outdoor seating on the deck into a three-season room, and in April, Building Inspector Bill Sanborn said the awning required modifying the company’s special permit – though the bar, because of its mobility, isn’t a “permanent structure” and doesn’t need a council sign-off.
Goldberg went before the council for what was an admittedly after-the-fact sign-off later that month, but City Councilor Bruce Tobey said that raised a gamut of issues from bathroom signage to the company’s commitment to allow the use of 50 percent of the site for “water-dependent” uses, as mandated by the state’s outdated but ever-present DPA.
More than three months later, the council is still chewing on the permit, Tobey said, and will resume its public hearing on it in September.
To that end, some residents say councilors shouldn’t grant the brew-pub anything until it meets its original permit standards, and Sunny Robinson – part of the Citizens for Gloucester Harbor group that adamantly defends the DPA — says she believes Goldberg and his colleagues have “simply thumbed their nose at the requirements for two years.”
That ‘s a bit harsh, but it’s nothing new for the brewery to face. Indeed, when the brewery debuted with a special, three-day temporary permit to open in late June during 2008’s St. Peter’s Fiesta, neighborhood opposition was intense, with cries that the brewery would lead to “more drunkenness” and would riddle the neighborhood with “second-hand smoke” and vulgar language. In fact, one of the conditions of its opening was that the pub have a Gloucester police officer on site to maintain order – a presence that was, of course, never needed.
Robinson noted last week that, before the brewery gets its belated expansion permit, the owners “ought to be held accountable for the requirements and demonstrate that they are meeting all their requirements.” And there is a context to that.
But city officials also need to recognize the complexity of Gloucester’s permitting process, especially when the DPA is in play. And in that vein, the council and building inspector need to ensure that it will cooperate with the brewery and help sort out the issues at hand.
This is a clear case in which the city needs to show it is indeed business-friendly — a reputation Gloucester has not often enjoyed in the past — and that it welcomes the brewery’s effort to utilize but also contribute to the new Harborwalk with a project that should provide benefits for all.