Chesterton Tribune



BZA grants use variance for craft brewery at The Factory

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A businessman who wants to put a craft brewery and restaurant into the former site of Kountry Wild Saloon has the blessing of the Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals. At their meeting Tuesday night, members voted unanimously to grant a use variance to the owners of the property, Bob Mitchell and Bill Bennett, on behalf of craft brewer Vernon Brown.

The problem: although Suite 36 of the Factory, 1050 Broadway, has been the home of many restaurants and bars over the years--Kountry Wild Saloon, Hooligan’s, and Guido & Murphy’s, for instance--in fact the Zoning Ordinance’s Table of Use makes no provision for a craft brewery, Brown’s attorney, Greg Babcock, told the board.

More surprising perhaps: the property retains the I-1 industrial zone from its days--generations ago--as an actual factory.

The site, Babcock noted, is in many ways ideal for a craft brewery. For one thing, it has two levels, the ground level with 4,000 square feet and the second story with 400 square feet, with more than enough space for the brewery, the kitchen, and a dining area. There’s also ample parking. And the site comes with a three-way liquor license for customers who come to dine but may not be beer drinkers.

Nikki Grass, who will manage the business and has 19 years’ experience in hospitality, told the board that the operation will begin with four employees, with the goal of eventually hiring up to five more. Hours of operation: 3 to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Ambiance: family-friendly upscale--but not fine--dining.

Babcock said that Brown expects to invest some $60,000 in the brewing equipment and another $40,000 on interior work and hopes to open for business on March 1. That date, however, is contingent on taking delivery of the brewing gear in a timely fashion.

Babcock did address one potential issue: there soon will be as many as three other craft establishments in Duneland: Hunter’s Brewing and 219 Tap Room in Chesterton and 10 Mile Brewing in Porter. Does that mean, as Babcock posed the question, that the local craft market is verging on saturation?

Far from it, Babcock said. Each of these operations offers something a little different in the way of brews, food, and style. But more to the point, craft breweries are becoming a destination for adventurous beer aficionados and Duneland could be putting itself on the map by encouraging this cottage industry. “A lot of people travel to centers of craft brewing.”

At a public hearing which preceded the vote, no one spoke in favor of the petition and no one in opposition.

Member Kim Goldak said that she liked Brown’s business plan a lot. She also likes the fact that Brown, himself a veteran, makes a point of hiring veterans, “which I feel is huge.”

“I have no problem with this variance,” Member Jim Kowalski added.



Posted 11/21/2018




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