A prominent figure in the Seattle food and beverage industry tries again to assume an elected office. On Thursday, February 4th, Fremont Brewing co-founder Sara Nelson announced she was running for position 9 on the City Council, a district that represents all of Seattle and currently supported by Lorena González (who recently announced her candidacy for mayor) is held. Nelson previously ran in 8th place in 2017 and was third in this main race behind Jon Grant and the eventual winner Teresa Mosqueda.
Nelson, who will step down from Fremont Brewing during her candidacy, emphasizes concern about the state of the Seattle hotel industry. “I’m worried about bars and restaurants, not because they buy my beer, but because they are so important to the city and I fear that so many more will disappear,” she tells Eater Seattle. Among the measures she advocates is doubling the amount of outdoor dining by extending the newly expedited street space permits beyond October 2021 when the relaxed rules expire.
Nelson and her husband Matt Lincecum founded Fremont Brewing in 2009 and it is now one of the largest beer makers in town, building a reputation for award-winning stouts, sours and IPAs. Though most widely recognized for her brewing background, Nelson has a history in politics and politics alongside her 2017 city councilor. In the early 2000s, the Sacramento native worked for former councilor Richard Conlin and is currently a board member of the National Craft Beer Brewers Association.
Although the Seattle City Council seats are officially non-partisan, most of the members indicate party action. On her official website, Nelson – a lifelong Democrat – characterizes herself as a “moderate pragmatist,” and many of her positions appear to be to the right of several current city councilors (she said she opposed the recent tax on large corporations, such as the police budget of Seattle to cut 50 percent).
She has also touted her bonafides to encourage companies to be more environmentally conscious. In 2016, Fremont Brewing’s Ballard site implemented the use of solid waste to produce biofertilizer and electricity. Nelson also helped found EnviroStars, an organization that helps small businesses become more energy efficient and develop sustainability plans. Nelson says water and energy conservation are core values at Fremont and believes that local government should encourage companies to adopt new environmentally friendly technologies.
In general, however, Nelson’s top priorities include economic recovery, solving transport infrastructure problems in the city, and “restoring public confidence” in local government. “By that I mean, when the council takes up an issue, I want them to have more time to collect public input and then have the flexibility to correct course if there are unintended consequences,” she told Eater Seattle .
More details on Nelson’s policy proposals should be available shortly, and she says they will look at the specific steps local officials can take immediately to help restaurants and bars cope with the ongoing challenges of the pandemic. “Why doesn’t the Council treat what happens to small businesses as an emergency?” She asks.