If you thought it was hard to open a brewery in DC – Look what’s happening in Loudoun County

B Chord
Photo via B Chord Brewing Company

Thanks to all who forwarded this painful read – hoping B Chord Brewing Company prevails!

“how did it go yesterday? Terrible. Awful. Disturbing. All words that describe what is happening to us. Apparently we have become ground zero for the fight over farm breweries in Virginia and agriculture tourism in Loudoun County.

When I met with Loudoun County officials repeatedly in the Fall of last year to discuss my brewery plans they indicated that it was exactly what they had envisioned would be an idea Farm Brewery for Loudoun. The Loudoun Board Of Supervisors overwhelming voted to pass the zoning ordinances enabling Farm Breweries in January. They made the rules and they passed them. The Economic Development folks strongly encouraged us to proceed and offered any help they could bring. I worked closely with the Counties Economic Development Team, The Zoning Department and the Health Department to address issues and potential problems that they had learned about from some of the other breweries that have already opened. In fact, many of the County employees indicated to me that we were a “model for how this should go”. The County added us to the Go Loudoun brewery farm trail and publicly supported our Brewery along with the other already opened farm breweries. Plenty of politicians also indicated that they supported farm breweries and would be happy to see us open. A few visited the farm to show that support. Over the course of the summer we built a 1 acre hops yard growing 6 different hops varieties. We received lots of help both from the county and from the state with our initial hops plantings etc. We invested over $100K on site development work like grading, parking area and even a commercial septic system. We continued to built out or brewery and at the appropriate time we filled for our ABC Brewery license. We expected to be open by now.

Everything has now changed.

A handful of self righteous people that live around the farm have decided that they will single handedly undue the SB430 that enabled the Farm Breweries and will overcome Loudoun’s zoning laws so that they can keep their corner of paradise to themselves. They don’t care how much money it will cost and they are prepared to destroy people lives in order to get what they want. They have decided that the laws are vague enough and can be left to interpretation to the point that they could push their desire for no ABC licenses in rural areas to the courts. As an example, VA law says that a license should not be granted if it is determined it would ruin the quietude of an area. One of my neighbors is claiming that 5 cars passing his house ruins the quietude of his area. Another example is the law says that a license may be denied if there are to many licensed establishments in the area. One of the neighbors claims that 2 operations is to many and that ABC must deny our license. Their lawyer and one of the objectors paying for this assault told VA ABC yesterday that they intend to go all the way to the supreme court to undue the laws that allow breweries and other ABC licensed businesses in rural areas.

Yesterdays pre hearing meeting went over 4 hours and left everyone frustrated. The objectors hassled everyone and even though ABC has bent over backwards to accommodate them they continue to be rude, obnoxious and unprofessional in their public appearances. They are unbelievable arrogant. They have made it clear that they believe their $$ speak louder then our laws.

Now, add an election to the mix and you have a perfect storm. The Objectors decided that they could create a panic through the county and launched a false, misleading and slanderous public relations campaign against us and farm breweries. They mailed out 5500 postcards to western Loudoun residents and ran full page newspapers ads proclaiming that farm breweries would ruin Loudoun and affect the publics safety. They made unbelievable statements about farm breweries draining the aquifer and that streams would flow backwards leaving nobody with water in western Loudoun. The told everyone that farm breweries are actually bars and that we would be open till 2am with outdoor stadium lighting. As you can imagine the intended panic did happen and it became a circus. Numerous newspaper stories and even TV reports where published describing the “fight” the objectors had launched.

Unfortunately, when the public received the inaccurate and slanderous information they started calling every government official that would take their calls. Every single dept of whatever was called and we started to get calls and visits from these agencies. Once again we complied with all request and followed all requirements. We remained a model for how this should go. We expected the politicians that supported the brewery and passed the zoning legislation to support us. We found out the hard way that they flipped immediately when they started to receive this inaccurate information. No calls or visits to us or any other farm brewery to determine if the information being passed around was accurate. They just flipped. At this point if they have not already run for the hills the have made it clear they don’t support form breweries any longer. I cannot find one politician who will stand up right now and tell us they support farm breweries. That is disturbing. I heard from one of them yesterday that they intend to re-write SB430 and require hundreds of acres of land to have a farm brewery and that there would be no grandfathering- so if you don’t have required hundreds of acres you will be SHUT DOWN.

Friends and supporters- we are under full attack and at this point have no or little support from the government officials that encouraged us to go down this road. What can you do? We need everyone that believes in what we are doing to get on the phone and start sending emails to their representatives at the state and local levels. We need your help to make sure the politicians and the public get the correct information about about breweries, wineries and other agro tourism business. If they are able to undue SB430 and the county zoning by simply spending their $$ to scare the hell out of everyone it will be a travesty and serious setback for anyone that thinks they can have a business in a rural area of Virginia.

We also need as much support as possible at Monday’s hearing. You won’t need to speak but just showing up in overwhelming numbers will help to send the message to ABC and the politicians that these handful of people do not speak for the community.

Thanks for your help and stay tuned for updates.


I have received word that ABC has postponed our hearing scheduled for Monday due to a number of objections about the hearing process raised by the the objectors. I will provide an update later today after we have a call with ABC to get more details. Stay tuned.”

34 Comment

  • Undo. The word you’re looking for is UNDO.

  • Yeah, you’re fucked. I would personally pick up and move to another county. In terms of recouping your investment: I’d sue the people who paid for the ads and fliers. If they made knowingly false claims with the motive to shut down your proposed business, that is a textbook case of libel. Actually, I’d immediately get a lawyer, file the various claims against those responsible, and use that as bargaining chip (i.e. offer to retract the lawsuit if you are actually able to open).

  • What can those of us who are DC or Maryland residents do to help? Is there some sort of petition we can sign saying we support this type of activity as part of wholesome regional development?

  • Hmmm. People move to rural areas to get away from touristy crap. I don’t know the facts of this case, but the people who bought out there and have lived out there have an absolute right to protest, and send postcards, and buy advertisements objecting to a new business establishment in their neighborhoods.

  • Ok, we’ve heard this side of the argument. Let’s now hear the other side. Once we’ve heard both sides we can then make an informed decision as to who is in the right and who is in the wrong.

  • Accountering

    I have no advice for dealing with Virginia. I would say though, being totally honest, I would reach out to Larry Hogan. I could see this being a case where he would want to show that Maryland is truly open for business, and steal a business/jobs from Virginia.
    So sorry you are going through this.

    • This. I know that you already have an investment made in VA but I have a feeling that you would be welcomed with open arms in MD.

  • Adam

    Meh…that hops vine photo was taken in late August. Too much hobby, not enough farming. If that’s the best they can do, there wasn’t going to be much brewing going on this season anyways.

    This is what a hops field should look like in August: http://imgur.com/gallery/UKXff

    • Prince Of Petworth

      They just started – doesn’t happen overnight…

      • Adam

        Hops vines grow as fast as wild kudzu. Those rhizomes went in the ground mid-summer, not March/April. Like I said, too much hobby, not enough farming.

        • Hops don’t produce very much in the first year of their planting. I’d cut them some slack on their initial year’s production

        • Rhizomes weren’t planted, starter plants were, so most of the plants energy went into establishing, developing rhizome, with less and less light everyday, then it’s energy going into developing flowers. Next season all the plants will be fully developed and will need to be cut back to prevent overgrow. Your picture is of a hopyard that’s been well established for YEARS with fully developed rhizomes, hardly a fair comparison.
          The NIMBY’s of Bluemont/Loudoun are desparately throwing $$$ and misinformation and fear tactics around in hopes it will take hold

  • Never underestimate the horsey set’s willingness to obliterate anything that doesn’t fit their exact standards as to what rural Northern Virginia should be, nor their financial means to make it heppen. See also: Salamander Resort (but in that case they ran into somebody who had even MORE money than they do!)

  • I live down the road from here and fully support the brewery. The main objector lives across the street from the brewery on 400 acres (27 year old woman who received the property from her tech industry mother). The main objector has a huge horse riding operation also. There is Dirt Farm Brewery down the road and Bluemont Vineyard (both have same owners) and I know they are subject to strict regulations such as closing at 6/7pm on the weekends.

    • I’m not sure why bringing more people out into the county would be bad for “a huge horse riding operation.”

      • Nor if the main objection is that the “farm brewery” should close early to preserve “quietude.” I’m in the throes of planning a winery and brewery (including some farm brewery) vacation for next summer, and most of the tours we’re looking at pick us up around 10 AM and deliver us back to the big city we depart from around 7-8 PM, with our last stop at 4:30-5:30 PM (1-1.5 hours at the last stop before we head back into town). Shuttering the brewery/winery/farm brewery to visitors at around 6-7 PM seems normal.

  • I’ve been following this, it’s really absurd that a few people have been able to make this kind of an impact on a business that has already gone through all of the appropriate approvals and such AND after they’ve sunk six figures into it.

  • You will not find a more self important set of as*holes than in Loudoun County. Worst people on earth.

    • Yup, and Virginia is a pretty corrupt state to boot. Their previous governor is going to jail despite the fact that most ways of bribing public officials in the commonwealth are perfectly legal there. You have to work hard to be legally corrupt as a public official in Virginia. As an outsider you won’t be able to take on the state’s machine.

    • The rich NIMBYs are the reason Loudoun’s infrastructure is so piss-poor compared to other jurisdictions; no amount of votes from non-1% residents outweighs the amount of money these jackholes will throw around to try to make everyone else so miserable they want to leave.

      Don’t think it wasn’t deliberate that they waited until this operation had spent a substantial amount of money before the NIMBYs came crashing in like a bull in a china shop. They’re trying to deter future potential businesses from even trying to move into “their” area by making sure to burn these guys as badly as possible.

      It’s not like they’re talking about opening a TopGolf, for heaven’s sake.

  • Bardo opened a farm brewery in Rappahannock county in 1998. The brewery got going, approved by county, state, everything. We then opened a tasting room. Just like all the wineries had.

    –Then some asshole neighbors started to bitch.

    The county sent us some kind of notice closing us down.
    Went to a county hearing … was a shitshow kangaroo court , said close down.
    Took it to court, the judge said, basically “county approved a brewery, just like the wineries. Wineries have tasting rooms. Breweries are allowed to have tasting rooms by ABC law. ”

    Bardos tasting room reopened.
    The county continued to harrass us in a million and one ways, so we fuckin left.
    But, I understand Rappahannock changed the law so breweries are not allowed like wineries. Havent checked, but thats what someone told me.

    So, short answer is… Va ABC was not bad. Didn’t seem partisian. The county, on the other hand, were a bunch of “we all know each other and are gonna screw the outsider (bardo). ”

    If you have gone through the county approvals, and got the “CofO” permit from them, then you are good for the county stuff. you are “grandfathered in”. If not, then make that happen ASAP, before that change the law back to the old wording.

    As far as the VA ABC goes, just ride out the hearings. see what happens. they are in Richmond, not NOVA.
    If you are not a felon, they will probably give you a permit. you do not need a lawyer for the ABC. in fact, they will be nicer to you if you do not have a lawyer.

    come by bardo if you want more in depth info.

  • I am really sympathetic. But this kind of statement is not helpful to you: “[T]hey continue to be rude, obnoxious and unprofessional in their public appearances. They are unbelievable arrogant.”

  • Obviously noneof the commenters do not live in Bluemont or even Western Loudoun, yet feel it’s okay to insult and label those of us who do. Here is the reality for residents.

    For twenty years we have lived on the quiet, historic, narrow gravel road (there are over 250 miles of unpaved narrow roads in western Loudoun) adjacent to the proposed brewery. About 15 years ago, when the County revamped its comprehensive plan, our neighborhood was notified via mail of specific regulations proposed (historic protection and mountain overlay district). We learned about this brewery via email from another neighbor, not from any county or any state official. The proprietor did not notify his immediate neighbors as he was required to do because he claims he was too busy with a family emergency, yet he wasn’t too busy to continue site preparations.

    At one public meeting he said he will do “whatever I want.” He claims he wants to negotiate, but at last week’s hearing he said he didn’t know which days he would be open, and said he would probably close at 10 pm. At another meeting he said 11 pm. He said there would be no light poles, but his “expert” witness, a bed and breakfast owner from Hamilton who could not even name the streets involved, said he told her the light poles would be 8 feet high. So you see, the residents who actually live adjacent to the property do not really know what will happen, because the process is fixed to favor the owner, not the residents who are being steamrolled by the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Supervisors, the General Assembly and a heavily financed brewery lobby.

    The business community insists on this so-called agricultural tourism to collect more taxes from Western Loudoun residents to pay for the enormous burden placed on the county coffers resulting from 15 years of rapid development. Brand new schools every year, brand new libraries, roads, public safety centers. Our high school is over 50 years old. Our roads are crap. This is from the Sheriff’s website: “Currently no public services are available at the Western Loudoun Station location.” Our fire departments are voluntary. The Philomont Fire Department received funding for some full time staff primarily as a result of income from cell towers, not from our tax payments.

    So why does the county need more money from us? To pay for the suburbanites on their 1/4 acre lots who cannot plant pumpkins in their HOA-controlled backyards or see the stars at night because of outlet malls and golf parks.

    The irony is that as you all drive out here to get some peace and quiet you interfere with ours. On a typical Saturday it is difficult to get into Bluemont to the post office because of the long lines of traffic trying to go to the Bluemont Vineyard, the Dirt Farm Brewery, the Wild Hare Micro-Cidery, or Great Country Farms. This is a residential area and the VA ABC law permits objections to licenses. Maybe if you had to contend with many ABC licensed-businesses on your block, allowed to be open until 2 am (he can say he’ll close at 10 but is allowed to change it whenever he wants) with lights on and cars on noisy dirt roads, you would understand why there are objections.

    The arrogant, self-righteous ones are those who seek to deny democratic objection to the overreach of a government overrun by development greed under the guise of “business.”

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