Plans for Tell City microbreweries advance

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City plan commission to hear business plans

Staff Writer

TELL CITY – Beer drinkers rejoice. Two new venues offering craft beers may soon join the ranks of new businesses opening in Tell City.

Developers from the Pour Haus and Tell City Beer Co., two upstart microbrewers, presented structural plans Thursday to the Tell City Tech Committee.

Derek Cronin, a proprietor of the soon-to-open restaurant and microbrewery, Pour Haus, explained the layout of his venue. During the meeting, members from city utility companies asked questions about plans for possible upgrades to gas, electric, water and sewer services. They also discussed drainage, accessibility, planned entrances, parking and several other facets of the business. Such conferences allow city officials to preliminarily discuss what impacts new ventures could have on utility use and are typical for upstart businesses.

Expected to open this summer in the historic Tell City Machine Shp building at the corner of Seventh and Humbolt streets, Cronin and business partner Chris Ramsey are restoring it “back to the original look that you see in the old photos,” Cronin said.

According to Cronin, the current 10,000-square-foot brick structure was erected more than 100 years ago. For many years the building as it sits was known as the Tell City Machine Shop. In recent years, it has fallen into disrepair, but full restoration efforts have begun to revamp the dilapidated structure.

The lot where the Pour Haus is going is an important piece of property to the city’s history. In researching the deed, Cronin believes the land has housed some type of structure since the early 1800s. He said a wooden structure was erected there long before the city’s establishment and a second two-story building was constructed before giving way to the existing one.

When completed, the new pub should resemble very closely what the building would have looked like when erected. Remodeling efforts are extensive.

Construction includes tuck work on old bricks, roof repairs and installation of numerous new windows that line the edifice.

Additionally, slight modifications to the interior will allow the building to better serve as a pub. It will retain restored lettering of the old “Tell City Automotive Works Machine Shop” logo that has adorned the façade for decades. A new porch overhang that can be seen in old photos will also be recreated.

 “I just want to keep it like it has been for the last 75 years,” Cronin said.

Aside from walls separating two bars from the dining area and an enclosed brewing area, “it’s going to be pretty open,” he went on to say. He added they plan to offer a full menu, two bars with several in-house brewed craft beers, 30 or more TVs, pool tables and several more features that could be attractive to patrons. There are plans to provide outdoor seating on a patio, decorative landscaping and addition of a section of sidewalk along Seventh Street where none previously existed.

The venue will cater to all ages and provide “something for everybody,” he continued, and could include video games and possibly computer tablets to give something extra for kids to enjoy. 

Such offerings would play a part in their business model. Cronin explained they plan to provide a family-friendly environment where teens can feel comfortable yet safe and could be an after-sporting-events gathering place.  

With a limited number of venues where youth can hang out, Cronin added “the one thing I really want is for those kids to feel welcome”

Building upon his background in the pub and business industries, he told the committee he plans to run a “tight ship.” He served as a bartender at Braunie’s for six years. Prior to that, he was a personal trainer who focused on the business aspect of the industry, helping to rebuild failing gyms.

Development leaders believe the project could be in line with other construction efforts, which include the recent opening of a visitors center, that could help revitalize the downtown area and help attract visitors there.  With the Seventh Street development a focus that city leaders have long said they hope to promote, Cronin said he wants to be a part of that and serve as an attraction that could help spur other growth.

Mayor Barb Ewing commended Cronin’s presentation and detail he was able to provide about their business plans. She went on to say it ties in nicely with the city’s development objectives and “it’s particularly exciting” because it helps shape many goals into a reality.

“We value development anywhere in the city, because it’s good for the whole community,” Ewing said. “Particularly where your location is going to be, it’s bringing to us part of the objective that came out our Tell City comprehensive plan in 2012 that we would develop that Seventh Street corridor.”

Aside from the old machine shop, the Pour Haus will include a reception hall along Main Street in the former Snappy Grill building.

Cronin said the pub is slated to open in July and the reception hall by the end of summer.

The committee voted in favor of the design proposal and will offer a favorable recommendation to the city plan commission. The plan commission will review the plans before signing off on continued development of the Pour Haus.

The restaurant is also awaiting state permitting to operate the brewery.

Not yet as advanced in their plans, Tell City Beer Co. co-owner Vince Luecke presented preliminary plans for its operation.

With plans to serve only as a microbrewery, the endeavor has hurdles yet to overcome. They are about halfway through the state and federal permitting process to sell their product.

The beer company hopes to open by summer. They have a lease to operate out of the former Cambron’s service facility on Main Street. However, Luecke said they are also looking at locations in Spencer and Dubois counties.

“We’re deciding where we’re going to do all of our capital (investment) to get the biggest returns,” he said.

With partners who are also owners in Spencer County-based Monkey Hollow Winery, Luecke presented an option where they may seek to do a joint venture that could incorporate a wine-tasting room. He said larger wineries often use satellite locations to help promote their brands.

There are no final plans to do that, but it is a possibility. That would fit well with expansion plans for Monkey Hollow.

Luecke explained the process for his product and said there would be little need for utility upgrades other than installation of a new drain. He was given information about maximum limits of materials that can be discharged into city sewers.

Other discussion about utilities was held, and committee members said there are potential drainage elevation limitations and other issues that could limit the development if their desired location is used.

The tech committee did not vote to sent the proposal to the plan commission. Members encouraged Luecke and business officials to continue working with the tech board and said they would revisit the proposal when more solid plans are developed. Ewing said she hopes to see the brewery open in Tell City and welcomed the investment.

“If you do pursue things here, thank you and good luck,” she said. “If you don’t pursue them here, good luck to you elsewhere.”

Luecke is editor of the Perry County News and Spencer County Journal-Democrat.