As emergency action plan is crafted, Tree House to maintain 1,500 capacity for summer

The hallway to the taproom at Tree House Brewing Co. in South Deerfield is lined with cans and the company’s history.

The hallway to the taproom at Tree House Brewing Co. in South Deerfield is lined with cans and the company’s history. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

The bright taproom at Tree House Brewing Co. in South Deerfield.

The bright taproom at Tree House Brewing Co. in South Deerfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

People enjoy the outdoor seating at Tree House Brewing Co. in South Deerfield.

People enjoy the outdoor seating at Tree House Brewing Co. in South Deerfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

The hallway to the taproom at Tree House Brewing Co. in South Deerfield is lined with cans and the company’s history.

The hallway to the taproom at Tree House Brewing Co. in South Deerfield is lined with cans and the company’s history. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 04-19-2024 1:22 PM

Modified: 04-19-2024 5:26 PM


SOUTH DEERFIELD — While Tree House Brewing Co. received conditional approval to triple its occupancy, the company is sticking with its current 1,500-person capacity limit for the upcoming season as the brewery continues working with public safety officials toward an approved emergency action plan.

The Deerfield Selectboard granted the approval in late December, allowing the company to host up to 5,000 patrons for outdoor concerts and other special events, like its half-marathon. However, while Tree House and the town have been making progress, the emergency action plan has yet to be finalized.

As meetings continue, Tree House Brewing’s Regulatory Specialist Allison Masley said this week that the company has booked its concerts for the upcoming season with the 1,500 capacity limit in mind.

“Our concerts this year will not be 5,000 [people], at least as far as I’m aware,” Masley said.

“The contracts that we have out there are for concerts the same size as last year.”

The key issue needing to be addressed in the plan is patron egress in the event of an emergency situation. A memorandum signed by the town’s top public safety officials laid out several requests from each department, with the Deerfield Police Department requesting the company look into getting a second driveway on routes 5 and 10, which would require working with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, as it is a state route. If the brewery cannot get approval for a curb cut from the state, it will be expected to detail how it would handle so many people leaving the venue at once.

Masley said Tree House met with Selectboard Chair Carolyn Shores Ness and the town’s public safety team on Wednesday and they are “very close on getting that resolved.” She added they “came up with a compromise for the driveway issue, at least for the half-marathon.”

“As a whole, I think the meeting was very positive and we got a lot accomplished,” she said. “I appreciate your guys’ patience.”

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Shores Ness said the company has been working well with the town and “they’ve worked out all of the occupancy issues” in the event of severe weather, but work is still needed to address a situation where people need to leave the brewery during an emergency.

“It’s still in progress. … The issues are fairly the same, how do you move that number of people?” Shores Ness said in an interview. “You’re talking about traffic flow options and how to move so many people in a short period of time.”

While work is still needed, Shores Ness said she expects approval of the emergency action plan to come in the late spring or early summer.

“We’re down to just a couple things,” she said.

Tree House approached the Selectboard in late December to request an increased capacity limit after a successful summer of concerts.

Masley and Chief Growth Officer Sarah Maggi Morin said in December the increased capacity could draw in different musical acts and larger crowds, which could bolster the economic impact the business has already brought to town.

At the same time, the two Tree House representatives had said the increased capacity does not equal increased noise.

There have been few, if any, official noise complaints made about the brewery, but the Selectboard noted there had been some comments posted on social media last summer.

Several residents at the December meeting also aired concerns about noise.

At that meeting, Shores Ness and South Deerfield Fire District Chief William Swasey both said Tree House has been a good partner with the town.

“I have heard of no compliance issues and they are very strict,” Shores Ness said at the time. “There have been no violations whatsoever, it is family-friendly in what they are trying to do and I’d say they have an outstanding record.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com.