Small Petaluma brewery back in operation after permit snafu

Petaluma Hills Brewing is back in operation three months after the city shut it down for lacking construction permits, Owner JJ Jay said he received his final sign-off from city inspectors on Thursday.

"It was a very painful process ... it was inspection after inspection after inspection," he said.

Petaluma building officials couldn't be reached for comment because city offices are closed on Friday.

Jay first began brewing at his new facility in November, and even announced a deal to share his brewing equipment with HenHouse Brewing, a very small nearby producer that was looking to expand. News of that deal, however, caught the attention of city officials, who shut the business down at the beginning of December, saying Jay hadn't had his construction plans approved and lacked an occupancy permit.

Jay admits that he was operating without permits, but blames the city for its slow response on routine permit matters. He submitted his construction drawings in April of last year.

"I couldn't afford to wait," he said.

Still unresolved is his planned tap room at the brewery on North McDowell Boulevard, directly across the street from Lagunitas Brewing. Jay said city officials seemed uncomfortable with the idea of a tap room, so he withdrew that application temporarily in order to get the brewhouse up and running.

Jay said he is still hoping to get the tap room approved. Not only would it help generate revenue from direct sales of beer, it would be an important marketing tool for a small start-up brewery in a crowded market.

"It will help educate the consumers," he said. "They can meet the brewer; they can almost claim it as their beer."

Jay managed to make about 60 barrels of beer, about 1,860 gallons, before the city shut him down. About a third of that is left in storage, he said, so he has been able to keep shipping to bars as far as San Francisco.

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