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.
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
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
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
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
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.