Warrenton, VA asked in Land Use & Zoning and Real Estate Law for Virginia

Q: Can a church open a brewery to raise funds to purchase land?

Greetings. We are trying to start a church and at present do not have enough funds to purchase land/property on which to worship. Are we able to open and operate a brewery for the purpose of raising these funds (and later supporting ourselves, to help alleviate the burden of donating from parishioners) if we do not yet have a physical address? If so, must the land be owned by one of the members? Can we rent property/facilities for these purposes?

1 Lawyer Answer
Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg
  • Real Estate Law Lawyer
  • Potomac, MD
  • Licensed in Virginia

A: hehe, Let me see if I get this. You want to open a tax-exempt Church of the Boozin' Bro's so you and the assembled spiritual can brew beer the way God intended it: tax-free. And, even though the Whiskey Rebellion started off this great nation right here in good ol' Virginny, you're pretty sure this is the way to God and around the Revenuers.

Whether you can open and operate a brewery will depend on federal, state, and local law involving licenses, health concerns, and zoning, but craft brewing is very popular nationwide, and a bunch of those breweries are actually owned by lawyers. You and a lawyer can surely cut through the red tape though your condo may not approve of your commercial operation or the industrial kitchen inside. The proceeds are proceeds of a business, and they are taxable, and liquor taxes are much higher than normal sales taxes. It is plausible that you might eventually persuade the tax man that your brew is the equivalent of communion wine or Passover wine, both of which, when used ceremonially in a place of worship, are probably tax exempt. But, I do hope you'll invite me to the party the day after the tax man decides that the joy juice you are brewing and selling is a religious artifact rather than home-brew craft beer.

However, one of the Jewish law groups I joined found a beer that it likes to offer at events. It's brand name is He'Brew, and it's actually pretty tasty. But, it isn't tax-free.

Anthony M. Avery agrees with this answer

1 user found this answer helpful

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