There has been a lot of controversy as to why Fenton United Methodist Church officials objected to Michigan Brewing Company's liquor license in March and then changed their minds last week and dropped that objection. On Monday, the Fenton City Council will discuss the brewery's license.
Fenton Patch recently talked with Scott Lynch, chairman of Fenton United Methodist Church administrative board, to clear up some of the confusion. Here are his answers to Fenton Patch's questions.
What was the first reaction to Michigan Brewing Company coming to town?
“At the end of 2010 we learned they had received approval from the city. We had conversations. We had our first board meeting, and many board members had questions about what we were going to do.”
What happened then?
“We had board member Jim Austin put together a presentation, gather the laws and statutes.
“There was a misunderstanding about 500 feet (the church was allowed to object to the liquor license if alcohol was being served within 500 feet but was not able to prohibit it) being statute vs. law. At our last meeting there were questions, and we realized we still wouldn’t have control to if they got the license or not.”
How was the congregation involved?
“Going through the whole process, in the beginning we provided data to the congregation asking if they would want to have a restaurant as a neighbor of ours.” (There were initially two other candidates other than the Michigan Brewing Company to occupy the old fire hall.)
“The majority of people, not by any overwhelming margin, had the brewery as the least favorable from the group. There were more people that did not want it, but not by wide margin.”
How did things move from there?
“We took that data and other points of data back to our board in order for us to make a vote. At the time we all were in agreement with all the information we had to object to the license.”
“We got a response from the Liquor Control Commission and received contact from the Michigan Brewing Company asking us to consider pulling the objection.
"We got to the point where we were confident the license was going to go through from our sources, and we felt that was the best opportunity to meet and talk about our concerns.
“We met with (Michigan Brewing Company brewer/general manager) Bill Tadrick and talked about some of our concerns.”
What were some of those concerns?
“Our biggest concern was a large amount of people in a small area. We realized this would make parking difficult and realized with more people in the area, there would be more risk.
“We suggested to the city perhaps having a crossing guard there or installing a light."
“We were concerned about music and outdoor music. We did not want it being at the front of the building. It sounds like that won’t happen. We also didn’t want to see beer vats out our front window, and we hope we don’t see any Badass beer signs facing the church.”
Did you have any suggestions for Michigan Brewing Company officials?
“We want to make sure and reach out to people through Michigan Brewing Company. We are going to do some partnering for some opportunities to prevent alcoholism and helping alcoholics. We want to promote something really positive.”
Did the church have any misconceptions about Michigan Brewing Company?
“We heard all the stories of another loud, crazy dance-party place, with pictures being painted in very bad ways by some folks. We wanted people to understand what it really will be since we are going to be close to them.
“We understand the brewery and brewing company is not a bar. People don’t come and drink heavily and stagger home. That’s not what a brewery is. It’s fine-crafted connoisseur-type people that come for a few and leave."
What else did you learn about Michigan Brewing Company?
"We learned what they represent as a company. They really represent Michigan and want to support local business both in the brewery and the food.
"We have since learned they do a lot with Michigan farmers. Really anything they do is about building up Michigan producers. We found out a lot of good things about them.”
Why didn’t officials talk publicly about objections?
“We had a very process-oriented view, in that we wanted to clearly understand what was going on and the things that could happen or could not happen. We wanted to be very systematic. We went into great depth to gain information and learn and understand what our rights were.
“We wanted to ensure we sought all the info we could and clearly and fully understand it. We wanted to clearly communicate with our congregation about where we were at first. We wanted to do what was right for the entire church body and how we fit in with the community.”
How do you feel about the Michigan Brewing Company now?
“Based on the meetings we have had, we fully expect to have a good partnership. We are expecting Michigan Brewing Company will uphold these provisions. We expect them to continue to work well with us.
“We know we have about a year until they open. During that time we hope to work with the brewing company and develop a good partnership, emphasizing and hoping to do some programs that will help, and it should be a good thing.
"We understand growth in the city is coming and that we want to be part of it, not be on the outside. We want to be on the inside and partner with the city and the others.
“One of the important things is we support the community. We want to help the community grow and thrive.”