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City-Supported Breweries Draw Protests in San Antonio and Richmond

Should cities grant breweries special treatment?

Alamo Beer Co.
Alamo Beer Co.
Alamo Beer Co./Facebook

Two American cities are currently grappling with the true cost of building breweries, as other local business owners and residents are openly questioning the deals made to get the beer brewed. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, restaurant owners in Richmond, Virginia have been voicing their displeasure that the local city council granted Stone Brewing Co. $23 million in public funds to build a brewing facility. At a council meeting earlier this week, restaurant owners argued against granting Stone an additional $8 million to build an on-site restaurant, saying their own businesses did not benefit from the same levels of financial support.

Although city officials argue the new brewery will create nearly 300 jobs and increase tourism dollars, other local restaurants feel they're now essentially "in competition with a city-funded bistro," as one industry employee told the Times-Dispatch. Eric McKay, co-founder of Richmond's Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, argued before the city council that "the disparity in the city's financial support for Stone versus its homegrown breweries and restaurants is vast," calling for more transparency in future decision-making processes.

Meanwhile, in San Antonio, the brand-new Alamo Beer Company celebrated its soft-opening yesterday amid protests that its site, which the city sold to the brewery owners for $295,000, should be reserved for public use. According to My San Antonio, "the original agreement grants the company an incentive package worth nearly $800,000" to build next to the Hays Street Bridge, which a restoration group has been working to preserve for more than a decade. Members of the Hays Street Bridge Restoration Group argued on-site that the grounds had been earmarked for a public park. Tensions re-emerged after a city council vote earlier this week sold additional city land "to Alamo Beer for use as parking and other commercial uses."

Protestors still have a few months to gather their arguments: Alamo Beer Company will open in spring 2015, while Richmond's Stone Brewing is aiming for a late 2015 or early 2016 debut.

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