By BETHANY ROLFSON
The Western News
After being open for two-and-a-half years, Cabinet Mountain Brewing Company is adding space for patrons.
After their landlord purchased the vacant lot next to them, the brewery weighed a variety of options for the space’s utility.
“In the future, we would love to expand the building,” co-owner Sarah Sorensen said. “Temporarily, we’re going to expand the outdoor usage.”
A few years ago, the brewery went to the Libby City Council to request a change to a few ordinances to allow them to encroach on the sidewalk in front of their business. They also requested change to the open-container ordinance to allow them to have alcohol within a closed-off fense.
Now their current outdoor seating in the front is very popular, but with only 5 x 30 feet of room, the space is quickly filled.
“People who want to enjoy that outdoor area had a limited space,” Sorensen said.
Recently, Sorensen sent the Libby City Council a letter with an enclosed application to extend their Exclusive Use Permit approximately 13 feet to provide an entrance to a proposed outdoor seating area in the vacant lot next door.
Their plan is described as follows: When people walk outside into the current outdoor seating area, to their right, they will be able to walk through an entrance into the proposed enclosure extending 45 x 35 feet alongside the the length of the brewery. Six-foot-high walls will border the two sides closest to the sidewalk, while trees and shrubs will line the side adjacent to the alley-way.
Patio chairs and tables will be available for patrons to sit, listen to live music and sip on a few brews.
For the rest of the lot — a proposed gravel-parking lot large enough to fit approximately five cars is planned to alleviate the current crowded-parking situation, Sorensen said.
During the last city council meeting, Sorensen addressed council’s concerns and questions regarding the proposed expansion. While other brewery co-owner and city council member Kristin Smith excused herself from the meeting.
The majority of attendees during the meeting were supportive of the brewery’s expansion, but some had concerns with regard to security.
Sorensen disagreed with the notion the minors would have easier access to alcohol through the fence in the back.
“We take Montana laws very seriously and we’ve never experienced that issue at all on our current outdoor seating,” Sorensen said.
In lieu of expansion, Sorensen said they are also planning to hire more staff and install video cameras for extra surveillance and oversight.
Sorensen said they’re planning for future expansion, and this would allow them to encroach on the empty lot.
For a building that’s over-100 years old, Sorensen said that they are trying to preserve it to the best of their ability.
“We want to be careful before we do anything to the structure itself,” Sorensen said.
That’s why patrons will only be able to access the outdoor-seating area through the current exit. Sorensen said that they didn’t want to put a hole in the wall to the proposed seating area and then have to patch it up once they decided to expand.