Would-be Portland beer brewer’s battle goes stale

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For Jeff Curran, it’s been a long 900 days. 

Curran is no further down the path toward opening his Newscapes Brewery than he was when he started in 2019.

His plan had been to turn his Washington Avenue home into a brewery. He later changed that to operating a restaurant.

Jeff Curran, founded Newscapes Brewing in 2018 in his Washington Avenue home. (Portland Phoenix/Colin Ellis)

Curran, depending on who you ask, is either the victim of a series of self-inflicted wounds or the victim of a bureaucratic “Catch-22.”

While he maintains he has been and continues to be mistreated by the city, Portland officials said Curran has been his own worst enemy. Had he just listened to their advice or been clearer about what he wanted, they said, his business would likely be open by now.

City Hall spokesperson Jessica Grondin said the city recently performed a final inspection of Curran’s property , but the state deadline had passed to be issued a license and he must restart the application process.

Approval from a municipality “to operate a liquor establishment” is only good for 60 days from the date of the approval. Curran went before the City Council in October 2020, so his approval expired in December 2020. While an extension can be granted, it only would have been for a year, meaning at best his application would have been considered void last October.

Grondin said the city has reached out to Curran about this, but he has not responded.

Curran said he has been informed by the city he has to reapply for a restaurant license and believes this is an attempt by the city to get an additional fee from him.

Curran, who has been confrontational with city officials and has filed a handful of lawsuits against the city regarding his business, claims city attorneys have told other city workers, such as firefighters, not to deal with him when he requested an inspection of his home business. He said no city councilor has ever come to see the property prior to a vote despite his requests for such visits.

He said he feels the city is retaliating against him, being arbitrary and burdensome.

“Being ignored for 900 days is hard to explain,” he said.

Curran’s initial plan was to operate a home brewery but eventually transitioned to brewing at another site. He then sought to be classified as a restaurant so he could sell his beer, with a limited menu mostly consisting of pizza.

He initially did brew beer at his home but was told to stop by the city because of a zoning violation. He sought a zoning map amendment to place his property in a different zone, but the City Council denied his zoning request last June, following a similar recommendation from the Planning Board

Planning staff recommended he seek a text amendment, which would change the use language without a zoning change.

Curran said all this eventually led him to try to open a restaurant, which he believed would be easier to achieve.

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