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Sand City Brewing Co. supporters sing praises at zoning hearing

Jim Clark, attorney for Northport microbrewery Sand City

Jim Clark, attorney for Northport microbrewery Sand City Brewing Co., and owner Kevin Sihler meet with the Northport Village zoning board on March 28. Credit: Raychel Brightman

A zoning hearing on popular Northport microbrewery Sand City Brewing Co. was packed with dozens of supporters who said the business has enriched the village’s downtown.

The compliance hearing on Wednesday came after the village zoning board of appeals voted in February to temporarily keep the brewery’s tasting room closed, citing complaints about crowd control, noise and drunken patrons.

The brewery operators had already closed the tasting room last September to rebuild the walkway with the intention of reopening the tasting room after finishing the repairs. The brewery still sells its beers at its Main Street premises.

The zoning board of appeals’ concerns were mostly driven by fears that the popularity of the tasting room, where small samples of the brewery’s wares were served, had become a de facto bar in violation of the village’s zoning code.

“We can’t make this a bar,” said board chairman Andrew Cangemi. He added, “We’re not here to hurt you guys but we’re certainly not here to hurt the village.”

The brewery’s lawyer Jim Clark called Sand City “a jewel that Northport has” and told the board that the brewery’s owners are eager to cooperate with the village. Two of the owners, Kevin Sihler and Bill Kiernan, were at the hearing.

Many of the supporters at the hearing told the boardmembers they wanted the brewery to stay in the village, where it provides a social hub.

“Everybody here is concerned you’re driving them away,” said resident Christina Adams, who lives near the brewery and came to support them.

A lone dissenter spoke amid the supporters — Diana Hannon, who lives on Main Street “downwind” of the brewery, she said, and called the brewing odors “not pleasant.” She was also concerned about delivery truck traffic operating on the one-way streets.

After the hearing, Clark said he was optimistic the board will work with the brewery to reopen its tasting room.

“Clearly they signaled they’re willing to work with us and we’re willing to work with them, which is all we’ve wanted all along, and obviously the outpouring of support from the community was really overwhelming,” Clark said. “I think it helped to paint a picture for the board of what really Sand City does bring to Northport and the value that having the brewery and the tasting room in the village downtown brings to the community.”

The board will issue a decision after holding a deliberation session in the coming weeks.

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