Close Menu
Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Berlin council passes on Burley Oak’s request to sell alcohol at events

Berlin council members asked for more cooperation between Burley Oak Brewing Co. and the town’s chamber of commerce this week before taking no action on a request to serve alcohol at events.


Berlin Councilwoman Shaneka Nichols gets passionate during a meeting Feb. 26 while discussing a request from Burley Oak Brewing Company to serve alcohol at town events.
Charlene Sharpe/OC Today-Dispatch

By Charlene Sharpe, Associate Editor

Berlin council members asked for more cooperation between Burley Oak Brewing Co. and the town’s chamber of commerce this week before taking no action on a request to serve alcohol at events.

The town council on Monday opted not to act on a request from the Berlin-based brewing company to sell alcohol at four town events. Currently, the chamber handles alcohol sales at town events. 

“Those are chamber events,” Councilwoman Shaneka Nichols said. “Those are the people this conversation should be had with. Bypassing the people in charge of the event is not necessarily a good look.”

Matt Burrier, the director of worldwide sales at Burley Oak, addressed the council this week with two requests. First, he said the brewery wanted to provide free samples and sell packaged products at the Berlin Farmers Market. Officials said that was a request that could be handled at the staff level by Economic and Community Development Director Ivy Wells. Wells noted that Lyon Rum and The Buzz Meadery operated similarly at the market, selling their products and offering free samples. 

With no action needed from the council for that request, officials moved on to discussion of Burrier’s request to have Burley Oak sell alcohol at Jazz, Blues, Wine & Brews; the Small Town Throw Down; Berlin Fiddlers Convention and Oktoberfest. He said rather than selling beer to the chamber for it to sell and serve, as has been done in the past, Burrier said the brewery wanted to sell the beer on its own. 

“What I think is being asked is go go around the vendor approval process,” said Ryan Nellans, executive director of the chamber. 

Burrier said the request was being made because the chamber had run out of Burley Oak beer at recent events and that made the brewery look bad. He said attendees were upset when they purchased drink tickets from the chamber and weren’t able to redeem them for Burley Oak beer. He said if the brewery sold beer at events on its own, it could provide as much as was demanded by the public. 

“So you’re circumventing the authority of the chamber,” Councilman Dean Burrell said. 

Nichols said that’s what it sounded like to her. 

Burrier maintained that customers at events were getting made at Burley Oak when in fact the chamber was the one purchasing a limited amount of beer from Burley. 

“I think you need to work with the chamber,” Councilman Jay Knerr said.

Councilman Steve Green agreed and said he’d like to see a better relationship between Burley Oak and the chamber. He asked if the chamber was running out of Burley beer at every event.

Burrier said the chamber was purchasing less beer from Burley than it used to buy. 

Nellans said the chamber was attempting to purchase some alcohol from a variety of vendors. He said in the past, Burley would sell beer at an event and send a bill to the chamber afterward. Now, the chamber is purchasing from a variety of vendors. He said Burley Oak had gone from being the sole provider at events, taking home between $3,000 and $5,000, to being one of several providers, taking $500 to $1,000 in. He added that people wanted choice at events, as not everyone wanted craft beer. 

“Burley Oak went from being an only child to a sibling,” he said.

Officials suggested Burley Oak and the chamber work together to figure out a solution. Adam Davis, the owner/operator/head brewer at Berlin Beer Co., said he felt the decision to allow Burley Oak to sell at events should be all or none. He said if the opportunity was provided to Burley Oak it should be provided to everyone. 

“I feel we’re dealing with a slippery slope,” resident Gabe Purnell said. “Where is it going to stop?”

Councilman Dean Burrell said Burley Oak’s request was immature. 

“I think it’d be inappropriate for this body to take any action on this request concerning a chamber event,” he said.

Tyndall said the two parties should find an amenable solution.

“If you two can’t work that out and this continues to be a year over year challenge we may have to explore the structure of future events,” he said. “I think you all can be adults.”

This story appears in the Feb. 29, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.