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The New Belgium debate: Should Asheville officials offer tax breaks for a brewery?

| September 8, 2011 | Comments (18)

Here’s a comment from loyal reader Anybody regarding the swirling rumors that New Belgium Brewing was considering locating an East Coast brewery in Asheville:

This rumor has been floating around the brewing community for a couple of weeks now. Heard that certain members of city council have already met with New Belgium and proposed a $3 million tax break to create 30 jobs and DESTROY our beloved, homegrown beer city. New Belgium would quickly own every sponsorship and festival and would quickly brand itself “local”. Look for a seasonal named after a WNC landmark coming soon…….. New Belgium=Budweiser DON’T BE FOOLED!!!!!

So what do you think? Would having a New Belgium in Asheville detroy our effervescent craft brew scene? Would it be fair, and good business, for local civic leaders to offer a big brewery tax breaks to move to Asheville?

BTW, the official word from New Belgium is that the company does have a short list of locations for a new East Coast operation, but it won’t divulge what cities are on that list. A company spokesman said they’re looking for a spot that has great access to transportation, that has a great quality of life and a local citizenry that “gets” craft beer.

Category: Asheville News

About Jason Sandford: Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville. View author profile.

Comments (18)

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  1. Anywho says:

    NBB is a big corporation-don't let their hippy coolness factor fool you….I know people who work there and they are looking to bring people from their existing facility to the new brewery. So how many jobs they will actually bring is questionable. No tax breaks for the big corporations! I'm so sick of it! PS-Don't forget to ask where they buy their tanks and alot of their equipment from….I KNOW they don't add that into their "carbon footprint!"

  2. Ricky Party says:

    What those on the outside don't understand is how this will affect sponsorships and how it will only exacerbate the "pay-to-play" virus that has infected the downtown committees and how they manage every outdoor festival, from LAAF, to Downtown After 5, to Belle Chere, etc. The price it costs a local brewery to serve its beer from one tap at these events is astronomical, and it's only going to become more and more difficult and expensive for the local, established breweries to use these opportunities to promote and sell their product when New Belgium comes in slinging their money around and outspending and outbidding everyone else on tap spots.

    Most breweries rely on those big festival weekends for major profits at various points through the year. They're pretty much budgeted in. The tap spots are probably going to be so expensive now that breweries will barely break even on sales, if they're lucky. Most will simply not participate. Get ready for lots of downtown festivals with only New Belgium (and maybe Highland) being poured.

    Highland will be hit hardest. Their six packs are, what, $7.99 at most places. Be prepared to find six packs of Fat Tire at Ingles for $5.99. What do you think most people will buy, given the choice?

    Something else those of you who are cheering this on might not understand, as to reasons why local breweries resent the way this is being handled, is that New Belgium is going to get millions in tax breaks to set up here, HERE…. a place where they have had NOTHING to do with the success of our local beer industry/culture. And for what, a handful of grunt jobs? Rest assured that most, if not all, of the higher profile jobs in this new operation will be filled by company veterans who want to move to our beautiful area. But where are the tax breaks for the breweries who have made this area what it is, who have made this a place where New Belgium wants to build their next operation, who have employed locals for years?

    True, it could ultimately serve a larger purpose for everyone. A rising tide lifts all boats, sort of thing. But the way it's being handled by the county is pretty insulting to the breweries who have been here for years, who have paid property taxes for years, etc.

  3. roo says:

    Basically, the County is planning to let a national-brand brewery cash in on the reputation Asheville's beer lovers have created for our city, and pay $3 million for the privilege.

  4. Craig says:

    I think NB should be welcomed into an already awesome beer scene. Watered-down beer? Have you had their most recent releases, Kick and Clutch? They are cranking out some fantastic beers unlike anything offered here locally.

    I doubt their presence will hurt any of the local breweries. I can understand their fear of course, opening and running a brewery requires a lot of debt. Any sizable decrease in revenue could close the business. However, Asheville beer tourism is a very real thing, and I subscribe to the "Mile of Cars" theory on that front: people are attracted to variety, so the more the merrier. A beer roadtrip through Asheville that would have normally stopped at Green Man, French Broad, and Wedge is not going to suddenly say "Oh, New Belgium is there! Let's just stay there the entire time, humbug to the others!" In fact, New Belgium might just create a bigger draw, and once people are in town and start realizing what else is here, say "Humbug to New Belgium, let's see the others!"

  5. Tom says:

    Gotta love the xenophobia in Asheville.

  6. SuckItMcGee says:

    I don't see it damaging anything. All of the Asheville locals will still strongly support their local breweries. If NB will become a beer destination, that would be fantastic. If someone from Raleigh is coming here to see NB, I'm sure they'll wanna see highland, wedge, pisgah, and everyone else as well. Who cares what brings them here, as long as they're here?

  7. Jefe says:

    Personally I believe that it would damage our beer scene. Largely due to that NB would become the "it" destination for the beer tourists. The local breweries enjoy a nice supplemental tourist business and that would certainly be impacted by such a large brand.
    I don't believe that anyone locally would consider New Belgium as a "destination brewery", but you can rest assured anyone from Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, Knoxvville, etc. will.

  8. BJ says:

    Yawn….already tired of this argument…we've gotten so good at the local beer business that we're now afraid of competition. I say welcome to NB and any other breweries that would enhance the local economy through tourism or local jobs. Many other local breweries would benefit from this – for instance, who heard of Odell, Ska, or Avery breweries before going on a beer tour of Fort Collins? Besides, NB is already doing things with renewable energy and efficient operations that we can all learn from. I'm not saying they're perfect but they're definitely operating on the next level, and could introduce the next level of tourism and industrial development to Asheville.

  9. Anybody says:

    By the way, New Belgium is exploiting a local chraity Friday night on their marketing tour across the country! See ya there!

  10. ncbyva says:

    this is the problem with publishing rumors, that incentive sounds wildly out of proportion. got to be fiction. and asheville brews can compete on any playing field. i say the more the merrier.

  11. Anybody says:

    Nice touch adding the definition of a brewery. Believe me, I know what a brewery is. And please forgive me if I don't refer you to the New Belgium website. They may be employee owned, but there not having meetings at the brew house to discuss market futures. They are very corporate. This just seems like a slap in the face to the owners of local breweries who pay taxes, employ locals, and give to non profits without using it as a selling pitch. Do you have any idea how much our local breweries give to local charities? It's not on their websites. Arts2people can tell you. ASAP, Wild South. Brotherwolf, River Link. They can tell you. Did Oscar get a tax break to open a brewery in a town that didn't have "beercentric citizenship". How Tim at the Wedge. I'm sure his break went toward the man made shade we all enjoy in RAD. Our breweries are an economic force multipier. Not only do they generate tax revenue and jobs, all of the revenue stays here! So why should we give a tax break to a corporation to take money from our local economy and send it to CO? They should also have to pay for signs that peel!

  12. Orbit DVD says:

    I think the big question is how many jobs do they plan on creating?

    I loves me some Fat Tire.

  13. Orton says:

    Looks like New Belgium already has its PR reps in place for damage control. Thanks for the propaganda, george.

    No, they are not Budweiser, at least not yet. But just because they aren't elbowing competition out illegally by giving away tons of free beer doesn't mean they're not becoming an equally hungry monster that wants to dominate everything. I would call them the Starbucks of the craft beer world: a decent product that is becoming more and more distilled and corporatized while maintaining the facade of "craft beer." They are genius marketers and they will ruin and smear their name all over everything our local breweries have worked so hard to establish. They run a great business, don't get me wrong, they're very good at what they do, but we don't need them here in Asheville.

    Highland will be hurt the most by this, if it happens, but everybody will lose some revenue.

    And you can bet your ass that those 30 jobs will mostly be filled by NB veterans who want to move to Asheville. The only jobs locals can hope for will probably be the grunt work jobs, like washing kegs for $8 an hour.

  14. Matt says:

    Yes I can see smaller local breweries being (for lack of a better word) intimidated by New Belgium coming in, more directly Highland. It's not like anybody looks at competition and says "come on in, lets be friends" New Belgium will most defintily be a big drop on the beer scene and sudden big competition. That being said I don't think it a negative at all. As beer city USA one of the biggest criticisms we have is that we have nothing that is too well known, or no big "award winning breweries" out of here. New Belgium will fill that gap for sure. I don't think the locals will suddenly drop what is already great support for ALL breweries in Asheville. A bigger name, and more money for BIGGER sponsorships out of Asheville is not a bad thing, and yes, I hate to say it, if they come and brew here, they can and will be considered local, and we should ENCOURAGE that, not discourage. I am a long time Asheville Beer city USA supporter, and I for one, am hoping, with fingers crossed, that New Belgium comes here!!!!!

  15. Beaverlakenc says:

    Just say NO to any tax breaks – 30 jobs is not worth a $3 million tax break break. Are we going to give the other local brews a tax break too. . .

    this whole tax breaks for jobs is down right blackmail and is getting really old.

  16. Forrest says:

    I'd like to see NB in Asheville but I don't want to give them tax breaks. We have a great brew scene already and don't need to give our amazing, existing breweries tax payer subsidized competition. If we didn't already have half a dozen+ micro-breweries I'd be a little more willing to give out tax breaks but I don't think we need NB that badly.

  17. george says:

    There's also this: NBB's Local Grants Program began in 1995 when it was established that for every barrel of beer produced, $1 would be given to non-profit organizations in the communities where we sell our beers. To date, New Belgium has donated $4.0 million. In 2011, we will donate $650,000 to programs in 26 states.

    http://www.newbelgium.com/Community/local-grants.aspx

    And they try to be as sustainable as they can, it appears. I mean, come on, this is nothing to freak out about. It's not like someone's dropping a walmart next to Malaprops.

  18. george says:

    This is silly. I can see the worry about sponsorship etc and it is a bigger brewery in many ways, but they are employee owned – at least they say they are. And they certainly aren't Budweiser. They're distributed by AB distributors but are owned by themselves. They do have 372 employees. surpassed the micro-brewery mark back in 1994. A micro-brewery produces less than 15,000 barrels of beer per year with 75% or more of its beer sold off site. To learn more about the definitions of breweries, visit http://www.craftbeer.com/pages/beerology/small-independent-traditional

    They are very open about all of this on their site. Oh, and they make good beer, but I think the beer people of Asheville will know the difference between a big brand they've seen everywhere already and know is a big brewery vs. small Asheville craft micro-breweries.

    http://www.newbelgium.com/culture/faq.aspx

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