a promise to drink more in the future

While I was away in Minneapolis, there was some good local reporting done by Brian over at the East Cross site on the fact that Matt and Rene Greff, Ypsilanti residents and the owners of Ann Arbor’s Arbor Brewing Company, are seeking to rezone the old Motor Wheel office building on Norris Street so that they can open a new brew pub.

Here’s a clip from Brian’s coverage of an open house event held last week by the Greff’s:

Due to the complicated nature of liquor licenses, the Greffs have a brew pub license instead of a distributors license. The basic difference is the Greffs can have a full bar at their place and can serve cocktails as well as their own beer, but they cannot distribute their product and you won’t find it in stores. They would like to be able to package their beer for sale and are looking to turn the Motor Wheel property into a brewery slash sandwich shop slash beer garden.

The building is around 9200 square feet. They envision using most of that for the brewing operations, with the rest devoted to the sandwich shop that seats one hundred. They will serve a few panini-type sandwiches, but the idea is to be able to go into the place and buy a six-pack or case or keg. During the summer months, they hope to turn the area behind the building into a beer garden that seats two hundred.

They signed an option to buy the building and have until December to commit or walk away. In order to commit, the place will have to be rezoned from M-2 (light and heavy manufacturing) to C-2 (neighborhood commercial). They will also need a variance for being less than 500 feet from a church. Finally, they will have to sweet-talk Ypsilanti City Planner Nathan Voght into allowing them to open without spending a million bucks on islands in the parking lot and landscaping. We all know how the City loves to make it difficult for individuals wanting to invest money here. It’s for this reason I put the odds of this happening at fifty-fifty. This could really build some synergy along that stretch of property. I honestly believe if they opened there, it would only help the guys at Ypsilanti Brewing (ed – another endeavor getting off the ground not too far away). But we’ll have to wait and see.

The Greffs said all the right things. I probably asked too many questions, but they were more than willing to answer them. I did ask them if they would open a business in Ypsilanti with the words Ann Arbor in the title and they assured me they would not. Good answer. There are noise and alley issues to solve, but everything should be pretty easy to solve.

If you want to help make this happen, I’d encourage you to contact your City Council Member and let them know how important beer is to you. I was told there are three vacancies on the Planning Commission, so it might be wise to try and get appointed so you can help with the rezoning. Whatever the case, people investing in Ypsilanti are okay in my book. Especially when they ply me with free beer.

I, unfortunately, wasn’t around to partake of the free beer, but I’m right there with Brian in his support for this endeavor. Having had more than a few pints at Arbor Brewing over the past couple of years, I can attest to the fact that the Greffs run a top-notch operation, and I would expect no less from them running a place here in their own home town. And, like Brian, I subscribe to the rising tide lifts all boats school of thought. This shouldn’t, in my mind, hurt the existing businesses that we have, but instead bring more people here to Ypsi and reinforce the already growing perception of Ypsi as an entertainment destination… And, most importantly, I’d love to be able to get a good panini. I haven’t had one since returning from Italy a couple years ago.

One last thing that should probably be noted, the Greffs, at least from what I’ve heard, are active Democrats, and there are few progressive causes in the area that don’t have their names somehow attached.

Oh, and before anyone from the French family (the owners of my existing Depot Town haunts) writes to me pleading that I not take my business elsewhere, I will make this public pledge: If the Greffs are able to open their beer garden, I vow not to decrease my consumption of food and drink at either Aubree’s or Sidetrack by a single drop or crumb, but to increase my eating and drinking across the board. That’s how much I care about this little community of ours. I’ll drink every single day if I have to.

– One question for the Greffs: “Will local bloggers drink for free?”

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7 Comments

  1. Ingrid
    Posted July 6, 2005 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    I agree. I’m tired of looking at that empty Motor Wheel building, and the Greffs have a very nice place in Ann Arbor and contribute to that community in a variety of ways.

  2. Posted July 7, 2005 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    You ought to convince Rene to resign from the A2 DDA so that she can run for Ypsi City Council. She’s amazing. Never met Matt, tragically.

    In general, brewers seem to be pretty awesome citizens. Why is that?

  3. Posted July 7, 2005 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    All the testing takes the edge off.

  4. mark
    Posted July 8, 2005 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Murph, I can’t recall who it was exactly, but someone just told me a few days ago that Rene had just stepped down from the board of another local organization in order to make more time for this effort. I don’t believe it was the DDA though. I’m probably wrong about this, but I think it was the New Enterprise Forum… At any rate, I suppose it’s conceivable that she might leave the DDA as well. Who knows?

  5. Posted August 2, 2005 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    The Greff’s site plan comes before the Ypsi Planning Commission on August 17th – time for all you lovely Cats to voice your desire to drink more?

  6. mark
    Posted August 2, 2005 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Murph. I’ll do my part to get the word out.

  7. Posted August 5, 2005 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Wow, someone just forwarded me this link. I had no idea that people were out here in the blogosphere supporting the microbrewery project. Thanks!

    Here’s an update. By the way, I’m not familiar with blog etiquette, so I hope this isn’t too long and boring!

    Things are moving along nicely. We received unamimous support from the Planning Commission and the City Council for the re-zoning. It will go before council one more time, and then barring any unforseen glitches will receive final approval.

    We started working with city staff very early in the process (a few staffers from the planning department actually went to look at the site before we made an offer on the property to give us a heads up regarding relevant code issues that we should take into account).

    We met with Charles Bullard from the Building Department, the Historic District Commission, and Nathan Voght from Planning and Zoning several times during the process of drawing up the site plan so that we could avoid being blindsided by requirements.

    We are only asking for a couple of waivers and one variance from the planning commission so we hope that we might be able to get the site plan passed on the first try on August 17th.

    The only tricky thing is that our project is really not like anything people are used to encountering. It’s not a restaurant, not a bar, not a beer store so the codes that were written for those uses don’t perfectly apply. And to confuse matters even more, there is a seasonal component because of the beer garden.

    The variance we are asking for is to be allowed just rehab the front parking lot for starters and then do the back one if there is a need. The parking lots are actually pretty expensive because there are requirements for drainage, islands, landscaping, lighting, and screening. City code requires 1 space for every 3 occupants (as determined by a square footage formula rather than actual seats). So going by the formula we would need about 92 spaces, but realistically, we don’t think we’ll need more than about 45 since the beer garden may fill up in the summer and the caf

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