In Buffalo NY it’s hard to not be drawn to a church for a brewery right away. It’s like a brewing palace. Beautiful surroundings, ceiling heights that are unmatched, since it was for people to gather the utilities are surprisingly low (several feet of brick and mortar are even better than 6 inch of fiberglass, the temp stability is amazing) and Buffalo has a bunch of extra churches right now that could use a, well use.
So what’s the problem? They came in a couple of flavors (Sadly the flavors are like skunked Bud Light, and not a Buffalo micro-brew).
1) If the church is owned by the Papacy it cannot be used for a brewery, period dot. That takes out many of the primary candidates
2) Most of the churches need some repairs, the first church we looked at required over 500k in stabilization and another 400-500k in conversation costs. The second needs 300k, but the conversion costs were down to about 100k. That is almost the entire budget for New Buffalo. In this same category, if there’s not a door I can get the tank thought I don’t want to bust down walls to get them installed, that’s not hard and fast just a bit of the preservationist that lingers.
3) A brewery falls under a M1 Zoning, churches are a C1, the first city councilmen I tried to work with refused to talk to me about it for several weeks before giving me a “I won’t actively try to stop you, but I’m not going to help you in anyway” kind of answer. The Councilmen Franczyk, who’s district I wasn’t working in was excited about the idea. In any case not being zoned correctly is another huge risk for use to undertake, a 6 month wait would bankrupt us in our first year
4) There is no equity in churches so the bank will not lend us money to fix a church for the most part. On top off that even as we pay down the merger costs of the church we can’t barrow against it later own to expand like a normal building.
5) Preservation, on one hand it has some money we can tap into in, almost 50% of the stabilization or big repair costs could be deferred by public funds, however you have to keep the building the way the rules call for which in the case of the first building, we would have had the largest tasting room in the world (not proven but I don’t know of any breweries with 12,000sqft of tasting space, and two levels with a stage in the middle)
6) Transportation, I need to be able to bring in semi’s, right now were planning on a grain bin for the pale malt, and I have to be able to get that into the building, also just in the first year we’ll be moving a couple truckloads of beer a week. I have to be in a place they can get too.
To sum it up, were still looking for a church that could hold us but it’s not our focus anymore. Unless we received a grant for $1million it looks like it’s going to be a goal to expand too. I know the city has money like that, and that $5million went to the Staler. The city isn’t going to trust a young guy like me, my background is Intelligence and factory work, not history building refurbishing.
This was a very long post, but I wanted to hit on it since several people have asked me about it. Chris Fetter has been a tremendous help, sending us updates when a non-Catholic church comes on the market. We hope this will work out, but we can’t wait forever.
This post is in response an exchange with http://www.communitybeerworks.com/, on our facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-New-Buffalo-Brewing-Co/215182275168604