Something to drink about: North Miami Beach looking to create a microbrewery district

By Lisa J. Huriash

You can drink to it: North Miami Beach is days away from soliciting businesses to create the area’s first microbrewery district.

Businesses seeking to set up shop here will compete for one of three grants — as much as $200,000 in taxpayer money in the way of equipment for them to craft their own beer.

If the business fails, the city will keep the equipment. If it thrives after five years, the business can keep it.

For North Miami Beach, it’s an incentive to redevelop an area seeking to stand out among its neighbors — and bring in money, too.

The idea was born in 2016 when Patrick Brett, administrator of the North Miami Beach Community Redevelopment Agency, and his staff began researching how to create a niche North Miami Beach, some type of destination or targeted industry.

So many other communities were pursuing high-tech sectors, he said. “We wish them luck, but we didn’t want to be in the crowd,” he said.

They discovered malt beverage production. At the time, the only microbreweries were a good drive away — including Wynwood to the south and Hollywood to the north — so the CRA figured they had a winner.

In May 2017, the CRA board established a policy that craft breweries, including microbreweries, were eligible for financial incentives.

It commissioned Pompano Beach-based RMA, a redevelopment management company, to look at the possibilities. The study that summer showed that “experts believe there is still room for new craft breweries to enter the market despite the tremendous growth in recent years. Consumers prefer the unique and flavorful beers as well as the atmosphere a local craft brewery can provide.”

The study counted 26 breweries in the tricounty area and concluded, based on national craft beer growth trends, that there was “untapped potential within the Florida craft beer market,” according to the RMA study.

So in January, North Miami Beach changed the zoning in the CRA district — the 1 square mile area of U.S. 1 west to Northeast Eighth Street — to no longer force microbreweries into warehouse districts, but treat them more like retail establishments.

“Within this district, the private sector can now come and open a microbrewery,” Brett said. “It simplified the regulatory side, made it as attractive to the private sector as possible.”

Now, the North Miami Beach CRA will offer three grants in increments of $200,000, $200,000 and $100,000 for equipment such as distillers, refrigerators or boilers to purify water. The city purchases their capital and leases it back for $1 a year. There is a clawback if the business fails within five years — they must return the equipment, which the CRA will gift to the next business, with the same rules.

A committee of faculty at the Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality will score the applicants.

Brett said microbreweries tend to be “destination locations” with a cult following. Many offer game nights and yoga classes and allow people to work on their laptops or bring their dogs.

“Microbreweries are the new cafes,” he said. “These are incredible attractors. It’s a great experience.”

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