Dennis Desmond: Northampton sends wrong message to businesses

Published: 7/31/2020 6:25:45 PM

While the July 21 Gazette article (“Brewery runs afoul of reopening rules”) focused on the cease-and-desist order imposed on Brew Practitioners in Florence, the larger context was not addressed.

How are similar breweries faring in other municipalities? Quite well it seems. Structured in much the same way as Brew Practitioners, they are allowed to open, pour their beer (where most of the profits are), all with the blessing of their local health directors — Bone Up Brewery in Everett, Fort Hill Brewery in Easthampton and Hitchcock Brewery in Bernardston, to name a few.

All of these breweries operate under the same state regulations that specify they must have a retail food permit. However, despite having a retail food permit, despite having the properly distanced outdoor patio area, and despite have passed their COVID test with flying colors, the Northampton health director did not allow Brew Practitioners to open. She specifies they must have a “kitchen,” a requirement found nowhere in the state regulations.

In fact, the state says that no local enforcement agency should apply stricter or additional rules. If anyone is in violation here, it is the city of Northampton’s health director for inventing a regulation and then blaming the state when she enforces it. Moreover, when Brew Practitioners ownership advised the city that they would open while selling their own popcorn and the neighboring bakery’s chips and salsa, they were quickly hit with the cease-and-desist order.

It certainly appears that rather than working cooperatively with this local business, Northampton officials sounded the alarm to the state. We are all in tough times, but in cities and towns across the state, local officials are striving to find ways to assist their local businesses within the state regulations.

Except in Northampton, where officials enforce regulations that don’t exist. It is disappointing that the Gazette did not delve further into this issue where Brew Practitioners is being treated unlike other similar breweries in the state. It is a crushing message to business owners that the city cannot find a way to support a neighborhood brewery as other localities have supported theirs.

Dennis Desmond

Florence


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