A prominent figure in Seattle’s food and beverage industry is taking another shot at elected office. On Thursday, February 4, Fremont Brewing co-founder Sara Nelson announced she’s running for city council’s position 9, an at-large district that represents all of Seattle and is currently held by Lorena González (who recently announced her mayoral candidacy). Nelson previously ran for Position 8 in 2017 and finished third in that primary race, behind Jon Grant and eventual winner Teresa Mosqueda.
Nelson — who will step away from Fremont Brewing during her candidacy — emphasizes her concern for the state of the hospitality industry in Seattle. “I’m worried about bars and restaurants not because they buy my beer, but because they are so vital to the city and I’m worried so many more will disappear,” she tells Eater Seattle. Among some of the measures she favors is doubling down on outdoor dining by extending the newly expedited street plaza permits beyond October 2021, when the relaxed rules are due to expire.
Nelson and her husband, Matt Lincecum, founded Fremont Brewing in 2009, and it’s now one of the biggest beermakers in town, building a reputation for award-winning stouts, sours, IPAs. Though Nelson may be most recognized from her brewing background, she also has a history in politics and policy, besides her 2017 city council run. In the early 2000s, the Sacramento native worked for former council member Richard Conlin and is currently a board member of the national craft beer Brewers Association.
Even though the Seattle council seats are officially non-partisan, most members indicate party leanings. On her official website, Nelson — a lifelong democrat — characterizes herself as a “moderate pragmatist,” and many of her positions seem to be to the right of several current city council members (she said she opposed the recent tax on big businesses, for instance, as well as cutting Seattle’s police budget by 50 percent).
She has also touted her bonafides in pushing businesses to be more environmentally conscious. In 2016, Fremont Brewing’s Ballard location implemented the use of solid waste to produce biofertilizer and electricity. Nelson also helped launch EnviroStars, an organization that provides assistance for small businesses to become more energy efficient and develop sustainability plans. Nelson says water and energy conservation are part of Fremont’s core values and believes local government should be incentivizing businesses to implement new green technology.
In general, though, Nelson’s top priorities include economic recovery, addressing transportation infrastructure issues in the city, and “restoring public trust” in local government. “What I mean by that is, when the council takes on an issue, I’d like them to provide more time to gather public input and then have the flexibility to course correct if there are unintended consequences,” she tells Eater Seattle.
More details on Nelson’s policy proposals should be coming soon, and she says they will go into what specific steps local officials can take right away to help restaurants and bars get through the continuing challenges of the pandemic. “Why is the council not treating what’s happening with small businesses as an emergency?” she asks.