In January of this year, East Falls Church roommates Tony Pianta and Mike Dillon started serious planning to open a microbrewery in Arlington. Recently, however, it became apparent to them that there’s no place in Arlington for such an endeavor.
Roommates Brewery, as the venture was named, was planned as a production brewery with an in-house taproom. Although no final location has been set — Pianta expects that to happen in the next few weeks — Roommates Brewery will likely open in Alexandria.
“Arlington couldn’t match up better with the demographics for a brewery with a taproom,” Pianta said. “It’s just tough to open something that large in Arlington.”
Pianta and Dillon were targeting a 5,000 square foot space, which Pianta said is as large as they could afford in a high-density area with heavy foot traffic.
However, Arlington’s zoning laws — like many surrounding municipalities, including Alexandria — state a brewery must be located in an industrial or light industrial area. Those are few and far between in Arlington, Pianta said, and most of them won’t be available in the near future.
“The available spots weren’t in the places we wanted to be,” Pianta said. “We can justify the extra cost in rent if we can get enough people coming in the taproom and buying pints, but it was just getting too much to justify anymore.”
The locations in Alexandria they are now considering cost roughly the same amount for 10,000 square feet as for 5,000 square feet in Arlington, Pianta said.
Pianta and Dillon, who have lived together in Arlington for several years, are disappointed they won’t be able to bring the county its only production brewery. Pianta said it’s “the ideal market” for a business like the one they are planning, but unless the status quo of zoning laws and rental prices changes, other breweries are likely to look elsewhere as well.