In just three short years, the Hudson Valley has seen an unprecedented 144 percent increase in the number of craft-beverage producers. Now, new legislation seeks to propel those numbers even higher. In November 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo approved a new bill allowing for the establishment of shared workspace and equipment for aspiring brewers, vintners, and cider producers. “More and more New Yorkers want to try their hand at making the next great Empire State beer, wine, or cider,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The new law builds upon this increased interest…and breaks down artificial barriers, to allow innovation and creativity to flow.”
It’s a major development for those looking to get into the industry, who often find the cost of renting equipment and industrial space in Westchester’s limited market to be an insurmountable obstacle, says Laurence Gottlieb, president & CEO of the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation. Once licensed, custom centers will feature shared workspace, equipment, and supplies, and can offer training classes on the manufacturing process.
It’s a challenge Andy Fondak (left) knows firsthand. It’s taken three years for him to get this far with his Chicken Island Beer Co., a new brewery slated to open in Q4 2017. Fondak studied at the Siebel Institute in Chicago and Doemens Academy in Munich before purchasing 11,000 sq ft in Yonkers last year. “I think this bill would have given me another avenue to further my education as I was starting out,” says Fondak.
Scott Vaccaro, founder of Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. in Elmsford, agrees. “I think it is a great step that will only benefit the next wave of professionals in our industry,” he says.
Gottlieb has one caveat: “Hopefully, that equipment will come with experienced developers providing industry guidance. Otherwise, you are just handing out plastic chess pieces and boards without actually teaching the students how to play chess.”