More customers may be able to sample the wares at Port Coquitlam craft breweries and distilleries following changes to city regulations last night.

Following a public hearing on Dec. 11, City Council approved a zoning bylaw change that would allow liquor manufacturers with accessory lounges to have 50 seats, up from 25. Based on requests from businesses, the city fast-tracked the amendment by holding a special council meeting on Dec. 4 to give the bylaw changes first and second reading.

“Our local breweries and distilleries are a popular addition to our community and I’m thrilled we were able to make this change before the holidays,” said Mayor Brad West. “This will be welcome news for both the patrons and the businesses. “It’s also part of the ongoing work we are doing to make Port Coquitlam even friendlier to both emerging and established industries.”

Since the city changed its regulations in 2016 to allow liquor manufacturers to have on-site lounges and sales, two breweries and one distillery have opened lounges, and a cidery has opened a tasting room. Another craft brewery is set to open in 2019, and a neighbourhood pub is expanding its operations to include on-site brewing.

Customer demand is high, sometimes leading to lineups at the lounges. To date, the city has received no complaints about the impact or operations of the businesses.

The existing craft breweries and distillery are located in industrial areas. Staff recommended that the allowable lounge seating be increased to 50 – as opposed to 75 or 100 – to ensure the lounges at the breweries remain accessory to the property’s primary manufacturing use, and to minimize any impact on the surrounding businesses.

The seating capacity increase takes effect immediately, but the establishments need approval from provincial authorities to amend their licence before they can increase their seating.

They will also need to determine if they have enough parking spaces to allow for the increased seating, as the city requires one parking space for every five seats for the lounge, as well as spaces for the manufacturing activity.

If they are short spaces, they may apply to the city for a variance. This would allow Council to consider reducing the parking requirement on a case-by-case basis, recognizing that peak times for craft breweries are different than those of their industrial neighbours and there may be other opportunities for parking nearby.