Haddon Heights Planning Board Greenlights Downtown Brewery


Tanner Brewing Company is set to move into 222 West Atlantic Avenue, and could be pouring within a year.

By Matt Skoufalos | June 21, 2019

A packed house at the Haddon Heights Planning Board meeting June 20. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Haddon Heights could welcome the second microbrewery in the borough, and the first within its central business district, in less than a year’s time.

After extensive discussion about the permitted businesses uses in the borough downtown, the local planning and zoning board approved an application for the business, which will occupy the Tanner Building at 222 West Atlantic Avenue.

Comparable in size to nanobreweries like Eclipse in Merchantville, King’s Road in Haddonfield, or Devil’s Creek in Collingswood, the 38-seat facility would employ as many as four or five employees for retail operations, plus brewing staff.

Attorney Matt Madden of the Haddonfield firm Madden & Madden argued that microbrewery operations, although not contemplated specifically by local statute, would be a suitable use for the property, which is located in the borough central business district.

“This is such a unique use, and one that wasn’t legal when your ordinance was drafted,” Madden said.

The ordinance explicitly allows for “a restaurant, a grocery store, a bakery ‘or other uses similar to that’; uses that are much more intense,” he said. Coffee shops—which also aren’t specifically contemplated by local zoning law, but presently operate in the same district nonetheless—reflect a comparable use, Madden said.

Furthermore, establishing an active business in the property at 222 West Atlantic Avenue is consistent with “encouraging infill development in existing commercial sites.

From left: Cape May Brewing co-owner Chris Henke and Tanner Brewing owner Joe Gentile testify at the Haddon Heights Planning Board meeting. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

“It’s kind of the bookend of the business district,” Madden said.

Cape May Brewery co-owner Chris Henke, who resides near the property and will act as a consultant on the project, described its operations as “very light production.”

Half the 1,800-square-foot space will be given over to brewing operations, and the other half to retail.

Maximum output of the five-to-six-barrel brewery would be 600 gallons a week.

“It’s very small,” Henke said.

“At most, you could do two days of production a week; another two days of transferring beer, cleaning,” he said. “There’s very light work around the brewhouse.”

The property also is designed to take in weekly freight deliveries at its interior loading docks, which keeps vehicles out of the public right-of-way, Madden pointed out.

Haddon Heights resident Joe Gentile, who operates the Local Links market café on Station Avenue, said the brewery would be another draw for the Haddon Heights downtown shopping district.

“The whole idea is that the folks who are going to come, we would hope that they would then check out all the other places in town to eat, get a haircut, walk around, see what we have,” Gentile said. “It brings a little more traffic to the town.”

Haddon Heights Planning Board. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Comments from neighbors centered on concerns about parking in the area, which is bordered by residential properties, as well as noise and other environmental factors.

Josh Ginsburg, executive director of the Heart House cardiology practice, which is located next to the Tanner Building, worried that additional customers could keep its patients from parking closer to the building.

Former Haddon Heights Council President Kathy Lange urged that the board consider the proximity of the borough youth athletic field up the street.

“This facility is in close walking distance with our recreational zone, in which alcohol consumption is prohibited,” Lange said. “There’s people already going to ballgames with the red solo cups. We haven’t had an incident yet, but I would ask that… you would please keep that in mind for the youngsters that use that facility.”

Still other residents spoke in support of the project. Neighbor Lauren McCall pointed out that the same property was slated for redevelopment as an apartment building a few years back, but that the board had deemed that too intensive of a use for the site.

“If you’re not going to move forward with this, what do you want in that area?” McCall said. “It might not be commercial, but it’s a central part of our town, and it’s an eyesore.”

Joe Gentile inside the proposed site of Tanner Brewing in Haddon Heights. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Pamela McClafferty, whose Garden Street home abuts the building entrance, said a brewery would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood in which she’s lived for 14 years.

“I’ve watched what Joe’s done for our town since we’ve been here,” McClafferty said.

“I have faith in his decision to bring this in.

“I’ve watched Cape May Brewing grow over the past 8 years,” she said.

“They’ve done great things in their community.”

Realtor Robert Bunis pointed out that the surrounding area is already within walking distance to BYOB restaurants in the community, while resident Andrew Bair spoke about the potential for a brewery to generate additional business interest in the town.

Thirty-year resident Mike Bassett, who described himself as “the senior resident adjacent to the property” and “a champion of microbreweries,” asked the board to consider the application.

“There’s children, there’s dogs, you bring your own food; it’s a hangout for relaxing,” Bassett said.

The application passed under general interpretation of the local statute; no variance was required.

Joe Gentile outside the Tanner Building in Haddon Heights. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Organizing the business, including making permit applications with the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, purchasing brewing equipment, and fitting out the space, come next, Gentile said.

He believes the project could be completed within eight months to a year, pending approvals.

“There’s definitely room in this area for another possibility of good beer,” Gentile said.

“It makes our whole corridor here a little bit more attractive.”

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