Old Town brew pub faces regulatory and tax hurdles

Old Town brew pub faces regulatory and tax hurdles

Sometime this summer, Fletcher and Miranda Stevens will jump into the deep end of the pool with their “baby” - an 85-seat restaurant and brew pub in Yellowknife’s Old Town district.

After a year of searching for a site that would meet city demands to provide a dozen parking spaces, the couple got approval from council last week to open at 3905 Franklin Ave.

The new home for the prosaically-named NWT Brewing Co. is a former industrial building now undergoing extensive renovations while the Stevens await arrival of brewing equipment ordered from Portland, Or.

Fletcher is an amateur brewer who learned the craft after moving to Yellowknife in reaction to high beer prices in the North and Miranda has nurtured a desire to run a restaurant, but neither has any hands-on experience in the hospitality industry.

Online blog posts estimate start-up costs for a brew pub and restaurant are more than $1 million, but the couple didn’t want to comment on their financial outlay, financing or the cost of the renovations.

The pub will have the capacity to brew around 850 hecta-litres annually, depending on demand and distribution, said Fletcher, who wants to expand the pub’s market beyond Yellowknife and the NWT.

“We already have two craft beer bars in Calgary requesting our product and hope to supply both Hay River and Fort Smith. It’s just when you combine the cost of shipping with the territorial tax to manufacture, it’ll be next to impossible to afford it,” Fletcher said.

NWT liquor legislation does not allow over the counter sales to the public for consumption away from the pub, “and our taxes to manufacture per litre are the highest in Canada by quite a large margin,” Fletcher said.

The couple said they will be lobbying the government for changes. Michael Miltenberger, minister responsible for the NWT Liquor Commission, told The Journal that the government is working on amendments that could allow direct sales by this summer.

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