Plans were announced to turn the former Press Box Restaurant in Niagara Falls into a Community Beer Works Barrel House.

NIAGARA FALLS - The owners of Community Beer Works plan to open a craft brewing tavern next summer on Niagara Street where they'll brew at least 1,550 gallons a year.

The Community Beer Works tavern at 324 Niagara will become the first brewery in Niagara Falls in the past 75 years, said Mayor Paul A. Dyster.

The $1.5 million investment by Community Beer Works and partners Buffalove Development and the Savarino Companies into the three-story, 4,300-square foot building was hailed as a sign of life in the city's struggling 300 block of Niagara Street, which once was lined with bars, but has more recently been a sign of the blight and decay that has plagued the City of Niagara Falls.

Community Beer Works plans to utilize all three floors of the building that housed the long-shuttered Press Box tavern. The company plans a first-floor tavern with interior and exterior seating to highlight the brewing equipment. A second floor will feature a gaming area equipped with an arcade, billiards, rolle bolle. The third floor will have meeting space.

Investor Sam Savarino said there will be a beer garden in front.

The project is expected to employ nine full-time and nine part-time employees.

Plans announced to turn former Press Box Restaurant into a Community Beer Works Barrel House

The former Press Box restaurant on Niagara Street in Niagara Falls.

Savarino said it was a risky investment, but "was a chance to do something that is funky, neat and what we think will be successful." He said it is their hope that the craft beer tarvern will bring people out of the hotels and also tie into the development that has been growing on the adjacent Third Street, where there are brand-new restaurants and the new public art space - Art Alley.

"They've rounded a corner over there," said Savarino.

He joked that after the third or fourth beer the investment made even more sense.

Ethan Cox, president and co-owner of Community Beer Works, said the company's brews are attracting a growing following. The company has another pub at 15 Lafayette Ave. in Buffalo, but it also distributes kegs to 150 to 200 accounts in Buffalo and the surrounding area. Some of the flagship brews are their pale ale called, "Frank," a brown ale called "The Whale" and an IPA called "That IPA." The brewery also plans to offer a Niagara Falls-themed brew in the future.

Cox said they will brew each year at least 50 barrels a year of their craft brew at the Niagara site, which will be supplemented with beer from their production facility.

Cox called Third Street in Niagara Falls the next Elmwood Avenue and said he feels the Community Beer Works tavern can have a role in this continued effort to create a walkable community.

"Beer brings people together," said Cox.

Bernice Radle, the president of Buffalove Development, was born and raised in Niagara Falls and raised her hands excitedly to announced her return to her hometown with the new investment. She said she promised her family she'd return to invest in Niagara Falls when she got her footing.

Radle said Buffalove Development is a mission-driven, small scale development company involved in the historic preservation of buildings like the one at 324 Niagara St.

"For us to bring what we have been doing in Buffalo to Niagara Falls - my hometown - I'm really, really thrilled about it," said Radle.

Dyster said in addition to tourists looking for craft beers, there is also a ready-made customer base as more young people are moving into Niagara Falls.

Plans for Community Beer Works Barrel House in Niagara Falls

Plans for Community Beer Works Barrel House in Niagara Falls

Anthony Vilardo, director of business development for Niagara Falls said the city took ownership of the Niagara Street bar for back taxes in 2009. Instead of auctioning the property, Vilardo said the city asked for requests for proposals, and chose Community Beer Works as the best private sector investment.

"What we are proposing is an investment in Niagara Street and we are hoping that investment pays off," said Savarino.

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