Developers of a planned microbrewery in downtown Cartersville believe the concerns about their business plan they heard at a recent city council meeting were “valuable.”
The comments from representatives of a nearby church and council members opposed to the plan helped them learn more about community concerns they hope to alleviate, said Bryan Ellis of Marietta-based Shelter Beer LLC.
“Our excitement for the project and the location has only grown since the meeting,” Ellis said after the meeting.
Cartersville City Council recently voted to approve a “due diligence access agreement” allowing Shelter officials to inspect the 103-year-old building as the council considers leasing the historic fire station building to the group.
Shelter Beer LLC wants to build a microbrewery that offers cider and beer it will brew on site in the 10,000-square-foot building.
Council members May 2 heard from both the potential developers and representatives of one of the city’s largest churches a block away from what is planned as Erwin & Church Brewing Co. at 19 N. Erwin St. in downtown Cartersville.
Ellis said the three developers anticipated “there would be members of the community with questions and concerns regarding the project.”
The meeting helped open “lines of communication with the community and its residents as we continue to move forward,” Ellis said.
“That’s what makes Bartow County and Cartersville great,” he said. “The residents care about the community and the businesses coming into it.”
The historic structure dates to 1916 when firefighters still used horse-drawn trucks to respond to fires.
Kennedy said the group — which also includes Ellis and Michael Holder — met in 2015 and had searched for buildings “that matched the project vision and still function within our business plan.”
They settled on the Cartersville building after widening its search geographically, he said. Alex Brennan of East Mountain Development Group contacted the city’s Downtown Development Authority director Lillie Read who responded with “positive feedback” about them locating in the area, Kennedy said.
“Once Bryan and I saw the downtown and how active the community was, we knew our business could thrive here,” he said.
Ellis, who will be the project’s CEO, told council members the group’s “vision” is to “embrace the building’s history” and “create a landmark destination in downtown Cartersville.”
Its plan includes redoing the building’s exterior and “bringing it back to its former glory, opening up the inside and bringing back the grandeur to the building’s grand halls,” he said.
A tap room is planned in the section which was the fire bay and hay loft for horses, Ellis said.
“It’s actually where the horse carriages used to be,” he said.
Kennedy said the building’s 3,000-square-foot main hall has a 30-foot ceiling where its 15-barrel brew house and fermenter can operate.
“We absolutely love this building,” he said.
However, some council members and representatives of Sam Jones Memorial United Methodist Church expressed concerns about operating hours, the building’s proximity to the church and what the effects of what the business will produce as its main product.
Church member Steve Landrum said he thanked the group for wanting to invest in Cartersville. He also admitted he drank beer occasionally but was able to stop drinking at a certain point. Others he knew did not have the same willpower and “struggled with the issue,” Landrum said.
He said the microbrewery will operate across the street from the church which some problem drinkers use as a “sanctuary” or “safe place we offer to the community.”
Councilman Cory Roth said he wondered if the money the group will invest in the building and the tax revenue it will generate will outweigh “the cost of relationships” with those he knew dealing with alcoholism.
Mayor Matt Santini said he met with the 1,000-member church’s board of trustees. He said he told them it would not affect parking for Sunday services and beer signage would not be visible from the church.
He said during the 30-day “due diligence” period city officials would check to see if the business complies with the requirements for minimum distance from a church, which is 100 yards from the business’s front door to a church. It also would use the time period to determine if all parties are “on the right page” on the issues, he said.
The council voted 4-2 for the agreement, with Roth and Councilman Calvin Cooley opposing.