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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Brewpubs the right fit downtown

Everyone needs to get a grip when it comes to microbreweries downtown.

Brewpubs will add more color and variety to Main Street than any new arrivals since the painted bears. They’re a great fit for the already brew-rich mountain region. We ought not fear them.
Southern Appalachian Brewery has made it not just safe but cool to chill on a concrete patio two blocks from Seventh Avenue. The industrial ambience is part of the charm. And SAB has done more to revitalize the Historic Seventh Avenue District than any single business. Adding that use downtown makes sense.
As we’ve said in this space before, there’s nothing wrong with Hendersonville, a vacation resort town, joining the rest of the successful tourist-friendly cities of America in offering booze along with outdoor dining, shopping and pretty flowers. We have pointed out the value of Rhythm & Brews, the concert series that launched the city into the world of outdoor beer and wine and has packed downtown.
The City Council just approved the first outdoor festival in which beer is the star when it said yes to the first Mountain Brew Fest on Locust Street outside SAB.
The City Council on July 2 opened the door to the popular taproom experience when it adopted a zoning code amendment allowing microbreweries (producing less than 15,000 barrels a year) in the central business district.
If things go as the owners plan, the Sanctuary Brewing Co. will open next month at 147 E. First Ave., becoming the first microbrewery downtown. The City Council’s decision to allow the brewpub startled residential loft owners, who have complained to city officials and City Council members.
If Friday night’s preview was any indication, the fears are exaggerated. Joe Dinan and Lisa McDonald, the brewpub’s owners, plan a vegan menu and a laidback attitude. Don’t expect dollar draft night and a chicken-wire covered stage. Like all of Hank Williams Jr.’s rowdy friends, the craft beer crowd has settled down.
“We have no hard liquor, we’re closing early, we’re going to try to stay very family- and animal-focused,” McDonald said. “None of the breweries in Asheville really have that vibe at all, I don’t think, and we’re probably closest to Southern Appalachian if anything.”
Kelly and Andy Cubbin, the owners of SAB, have helped change the reputation of the Historic Seventh Avenue District while partnering with many community organizations on fundraisers. We’re guessing the Sanctuary pub will share the same harmonious vibe, to use McDonald’s phrase.
Hendersonville is sitting next to Beer City USA and its 20 microbreweries. Sierra Nevada’s Taproom has demonstrated — in aces — the economic value of craft beer tourism. Craft beer is so popular, and new breweries so plentiful, that the boom does feel a bit like a bubble. Even so, Hendersonville would be shortsighted not to ride the wave while making downtown more interesting and tourist friendly. Brewpub tourism is a business opportunity, not a threat.