DENHAM SPRINGS - The six-month grind is over.
After months of working with the city to figure out exactly where and how Ron Dunham, and his son Brett, intended to place and operate a microbrewery inside the city limits of Denham Springs - which doesn't allow bars - a 4-1 vote has approved a 'special use' permit for the family business to open in Denham Springs.
Laura Schmitt Smith was the lone dissenting vote.
"I am not against the venue," Smith said, "I believe venues like a microbrewery have been and are successful in cities like Denham Springs.
"I voted no because there are specifics within the language of the permit that are not guaranteed
Some debate occurred at the council meeting after council woman Amber Dugas, who owns the TOLA restaurant in downtown Denham Springs, found that a call to the Alcohol Tobacco Control (ATC) suggested that the microbrewery would have to comply by the city's restaurant ordinance requirements.
That requirement would be 60% food, 40% alcohol.
According to city attorney Stephanie Hulett, the 'special use' permit would supersede Denham's local law and allow Le Chien to operate as a microbrewery under a lesser food-alcohol ratio, closer to 30% food 70% alcohol.
The understanding was echoed by the rest of the council, and now the microbrewery will focus on acquiring their new location and renovating after the approval.
Le Chien, or 'The Dog' in french, will take over the old oil station at 101 Hummell Street, on the south side of the railroad tracks in downtown Denham Springs. The microbrewery will conduct extensive renovations on the site.
Ron Dunham and his son, Brett, have gone through a roughly six-month process to reach this point. With approval, the permit would allow the establishment to operate at a food-to-alcohol ratio less than what the city considers adequate for restaurants, which is 60-40.
Instead, the microbrewery would be required to operate at 20-80 (food to alcohol, respectively), per state regulations.
Le Chien would serve their very own craft beer, which you 'wouldn't find in stores' according to owner Ron. The food served would be acquired at a window type setting - and they would offer lunch - but there would be no formal wait staff.
But the microbrewery would go beyond just a place to drink beer and eat some food. The Dunham's will purchase the entire lot that stretches from Hummell to Range for both parking and space to have areas for dogs, a patio for outdoor games, and an area for small bands to play.
"A bar is where people go to have some drinks and meet people," Ron Dunham said, "our microbrewery is a destination."
The Dunhams discussed the economic impact of microbreweries on local economies, as well. According to the Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild, Louisiana microbreweries have provided $740 million to local markets, an impact of almost $222 million per establishment in Louisiana.