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Guinness gets first green light in the legislature

Diageo North America

Guinness’s plan to build a brewery and taproom in Southwest  Baltimore County cleared its first hurdle in the General Assembly Monday.

For a local bill to have a prayer, it has to get voted out of its local delegation. Guinness’s bill for some exemptions in state liquor laws did that, breezing through Baltimore County’s Senate delegation 6-0; but not without some changes.

Guinness had been asking for a license that would allow it to brew 5,000 barrels a yearat the site that has a long history of producing spirits like Seagram’s Calvert Whiskey.That was rolled back to 4,500 barrels.

And it had hoped to keep its tap room open until midnight on weekends. That would now be 10 p.m.

Dwayne Kratt, the senior director of government affairs for Diageo, the company that owns Guinness, said they can make the earlier closing time work.

“It was a concession that we wanted to make to show good faith,” Kratt said.

But Jack Milani, with the Maryland Licensed Beverage Association, would like a little more good faith.

The Guinness brewery on Washington Boulevard would be very close to interstates and the airport. The company is hoping to attract as many as 300,000 tourists a year for tours and tastings.

So, Milani would like to see Guinness close its tap room even earlier so it would not be competing with nearby bars.

“What we’re looking to do is really just if we’re going to bring all of this tourism in and all of that, we were kind of hoping that it would be shared with everyone,” Milani said.

Milani would  like Guinness’s hours to mirror those of the New Belgium and Sierra Nevada breweriesin Asheville, N.C. They close an hour or two earlier than what Guinness is proposing.

Milani says his association will keep pushing for that change, as the Guinness bill works its way through the legislature. If Guinness gets the go ahead from the General Assembly, it hopes to open its Baltimore County facility this fall.

Officials believe the brewery will employ up to 70 people. It’s been more than 60 years since Guinness has had a brewery in the United States.

Baltimore County State Senator Bobby Zirkin is the sponsor of the bill that would give Guinness the license it needs to run the brewery. Zirkin said he believes the bill will clear the Senate. It also will need to pass the House of Delegates before being sent to the governor for approval.