Pinehurst Searching for New Brewery
The village of Pinehurst is looking for a new tenant for the historic steam plant after learning the Railhouse Brewery could not get the financing it needed to renovate and move into the space.
“We are now actively looking for a brewer to run a brewpub out of there,” said Village Manager Andy Wilkison.
The village had obtained $400,000 in federal and state grants to help Aberdeen-based Railhouse Brewery renovate the 1895 building. But Wilkison said the village recently learned that Railhouse was unable to obtain the necessary funding for its part of the project.
Mike Ratkowski, co-owner of Railhouse Brewery, said he is disappointed that the expansion didn’t come together like everyone had hoped, but added that he believes that bringing another brewpub to town could be a win-win for the area.
“In the long run, I think to stay here in Aberdeen we will do great,” Ratkowski said. “And if another brewpub was to open around here, that would be great for the area.”
The planned renovation project is estimated to cost $1.3 million. Renovation of the old steam plant, owned by the Pinehurst Resort, was to be the anchor of redevelopment of a portion of the village known as Village Place.
Pinehurst, which has worked tirelessly in recent years to try to stimulate business growth in Village Place, will press forward with a study of the area and seek ways to stimulate growth there. The area, formerly known as NewCore, is seen as a vital link between downtown Pinehurst and residential neighborhoods.
The village is under a time crunch to find another tenant, or it risks losing half of its grant funding.
“Basically, for the first $200,000 we have about 60 days to find another brewery, or we will have to forfeit those funds,” Assistant Village Manager Natalie Dean said.
If the village loses the grant it can always reapply for it, she added.
The remainder of the funding, Dean said, is set to expire in early 2015.
The North Carolina Department of Commerce awarded the grants and has indicated the funds can be transferred to another brewpub. The approved grants don’t limit what type of business can go in the steam plant building, but the building’s owner does.
Pinehurst LLC, owner of Pinehurst Resort, owns the steam plant building and has indicated to the village that it is only interested in having a brewpub or a winery in the historic building, Wilkison said.
The village is now working with several entities, including Partners in Progress, to find a business to occupy the building.
Wilkison is optimistic the village will be able to find a tenant soon, considering the popularity of brewpubs in the region.
“This is a rapidly growing industry, especially in North Carolina,” Wilkison said. “And we are encouraged and have received a lot of good signs that we will be able to find someone who will be a great fit in that unique space.”
In addition to securing the grants, the village will also spend $252,000 to build a road that will eventually connect Magnolia Road with Dundee Road and serve as the east-west connector in Village Place. The money will also pay for off-street angled parking, brick sidewalks, street lighting and landscaping.
The project to renovate the steam plant, built the same year the Tufts family opened Pinehurst Resort, has been slowed by delays in getting the necessary approvals from regulatory agencies. But the loss of the prospective tenant happened quickly.
Ratkowski said the ultimate goal when the idea first of a move to Pinehurst first surfaced was to be open in time for the U.S. Opens in 2014. He said recent delays had begun to make that goal impossible.
“When we first talked about the move, we were planning to be open by now,” Ratkowski said. “In the last couple of months we knew this was a big project and if we didn’t get started soon, we knew there was really no way we were going to be able to be open for the U.S. Open.”
In early November, representatives from Railhouse Brewery told The Pilot they still had hopes of expanding their current operation and opening a microbrewery in the historic steam plant in Pinehurst prior to the consecutive Men’s and Women’s U.S. Opens in 2014. At the time, they said they were still waiting for funding from the bank.
Ratkowski and Evitts said then that they had secured financing to fund the majority of the project and that the project was “shovel ready” pending bank financing.
But the village learned a few days before Thanksgiving that the brewery was unable to get the money necessary to keep the project on track, Wilkison said.
“We wish Railhouse Brewery good luck,” Wilkison said. “And we appreciate their hard work to try to make this project happen.”
In Aberdeen, Railhouse recently signed a new three-year lease after deciding to take an additional 3,000 square feet of space next door to its existing location. The addition will nearly double the size of the brewery and allow the business to, among other things, open a full bar and a test kitchen.
“We are still a growing business,” Ratkowski said. “And now we are staying in Aberdeen.”
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or email@example.com.
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