For the second time in a week, a four-year-old microbrewery announced it will expand its operation, adding a new West Side facility just days after announcing a new site in Niagara Falls.
Community Beer Works Inc. plans to renovate part of the old Schaefer Malt House property at 520 Seventh St. for use as a craft brewery and tap room, featuring a bar area, food service, seating and an outdoor beer garden. The $1.5 million project received Buffalo Planning Board approval Monday, although it still needs a zoning variance next month.
The property includes a century-old, four-story brick tower at the corner of Seventh and Jersey streets, as well as a one-story building that consisted of loading docks and warehouse storage space. It's the one-story, 14,000-square-foot portion that is being targeted for adaptive reuse by the business.
Plans call for using 2,200 square feet for brewing beer, 5,000 square feet for packaging and storage, and 2,400 square feet for the tap room and commercial kitchen. The beer garden will be located in the rear, where a portion of the roof that is caving in will be removed.
The retail restaurant and tap room would be open until 9 or 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends, although the patio might close earlier.
Community Beer Works, which was founded four years ago, intends to keep its current site at 15 Lafayette Avenue, but will use it exclusively for research, development and testing of new beers, not for retail or production. That will shift to the new site, where the principals hope to produce 10,000 to 12,000 barrels to start.
"This will allow us to have a little bit more flexibility, because with a scaled-up facility, our current facility can crank out a lot of R&D and test batches," said President Ethan Cox. "We're planning all of your favorites, just more of them."
Given the property's long past, the project will be done as a historic renovation, in conjunction with the National Park Service and the State Historic Preservation Office, in order to qualify for state and federal tax credits to defray the costs.
Work will include stripping, cleaning and repainting the outside of the masonry structure, which is covered with blue-and-red murals, as well as installing a new concrete patio, sidewalks and loading zone. The parking area will also be repaved, and new exterior lighting, landscaping, bike racks and fencing are also planned, according to documents submitted to the Planning Board.
The property is owned by Giles Kavanagh's Pitoune Development, which also owns the connected tower building that is not part of this project. That building's third and fourth floors were used for storage, but those tenants are now gone, leaving only a church occupying the second floor.
Architect Tom Kujawa said that second building might be redeveloped in a second phase, likely with apartments and some commercial space, while upgrading the corner. But for that to be viable, he said, the property owners want to get Community Beer Works into their space to start funding the second phase.
The approval comes just a few days after Community Beer Works' owners announced plans to open a craft brewing tavern next summer at 324 Niagara St. in Niagara Falls, where they expect to brew at least 1,550 gallons per year. The new $1.5 million venture, which also includes partners Bernice Radle's Buffalove Development and the Savarino Companies, represents the first brewery in Niagara Falls in 75 years.
The Niagara Falls project will convert a three-story, 4,300-square-foot building, formerly home to the Press Box Tavern, into a first-floor tavern with seating that looks into the brewing area, plus a game area on the second floor and meeting space on the third. There will also be a beer garden in front.