ZEPHYRHILLS — The Zephyrhills City Council has eased restrictions on alcohol sales downtown to accommodate a new microbrewery and tasting room planned by a local award-winning craft beer maker.
Last month, Robert Hilferding told the City Council he wanted to sell his Zephyrhills Brewing Co. beer at his downtown property at 38530 5th Ave. City leaders expressed excitement over being part of the craft beer boom.
Adding to the allure of the project is the fact that less than two years after Hilferding began making homemade beer, his Scottish ale, named Way Off Kilter, won the 2014 American Homebrewers Association's national Best of Show award, beating out 8,172 other entries. The association also named him Homebrewer of the Year in 2014.
Now Hilferding is looking to open a downtown brewery and tasting room that would begin by offering 15 different styles of beer, from lagers to dark stouts, and a variety of ales, he told the council.
But there was a roadblock. The city's land development code did not allow beer sales within 300 feet of churches, which excluded Hilferding's property, according to Zephyrhills City Manager Steve Spina. The city staff, however, viewed a high-end craft beer tasting room as a potential boon to rejuvenate downtown.
"I think this will be a big game-changer," Spina said.
The City Council agreed, voting unanimously last month, during a first reading, to approve a land-use amendment that will allow for beer and wine sales along 5th Avenue, with boundaries from 9th Street to U.S. 301 and from 4th Avenue to 6th Avenue, which includes Hilferding's property. A second reading passed Tuesday.
"I'm just excited about it. I think it's great for downtown," council member Lance Smith said of the planned brewery.