You might not be able to go grab a bite to eat and a beer after work just yet, but plans for Michigan Brewing Company are moving along.
The are done. Now Michigan Brewing Company officials are ready to begin working on plans to remodel the old Fenton fire hall into a restaurant and taproom. They hope to be open by July 2012.
Michigan Brewing Company President Bobby Mason and Fenton location brewmaster/manager Bill Tadrick spoke Thursday afternoon about plans to renovate the building, which may be called Michigan Brewing Company Fenton Fire Hall Brewery, or MBC for short.
“We are very excited to be part of the Fenton community,” Tadrick said. “It’s such a beautiful location.”
The building, located at 201 S. Leroy St., overlooks the Fenton gazebo and the Shiawassee River.
Tadrick said Michigan Brewing Company plans to keep the outside of the building—the brick exterior and large clock— mostly intact, with the exception of new windows and doors.
“The building is beautiful just the way it sits,” Tadrick said.
The inside, however, is a different story, as the company expects to spend more than $1 million in renovations. It will keep the industrial feel with aluminum, steel and glass and stay away from wood.
“We want to take our time and do the project right,” Tadrick said.
There will be seating for about 140 people, including some outdoor seating; an open kitchen; a space for brewing beer, making wine and distilling liquor; coolers in the lower level; and a spot for Michigan Brewing Company merchandise and six-packs of beer for sale.
One part of the inside that won’t be removed is a large bell near the entrance, which could be used to signal happy hour.
People wanting to get a peek won’t see too much going on yet, as the company will wait until the necessary licenses from the state are granted. Mason said that is expected to take three or four months.
Mason said the eatery will be family friendly with affordable food such as burgers, sandwiches and pizza.
“We’ve looked at a couple of different menus,” he said. “We will try the best we can to keep prices low.”
The facility will also offer 10 to 20 beers on tap, including some smaller batches brewed on-site instead of at the company’s headquarters in Webberville. Some of the beers could even feature Fenton places or names. Many of the company’s staple beers, such Peninsula Porter, Mackinac Pale Ale and Superior Stout, feature Michigan names.
“It’s called Michigan Brewing Company for a reason. It’s not the Mason brewing company,” Tadrick joked. “We use a lot of Michigan products."
Company officials said the establishment will have the same laid-back atmosphere of the company’s other two locations, in Webberville and in Lansing, which opened in 2009. The company also plans to open a location in Williamston in June or July.
There are no plans to feature live entertainment, and the establishment is likely to close at 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends. Tadrick also said the company will be sensitive to activities at the adjacent .
The signed deal is for Michigan Brewing to lease the building for $1 a year for seven years and then buy it for $1. Fenton Downtown Development Authority Director Michael Burns said the lease is to protect the city in case the establishment goes out of business. The group will also receive up to $400,000 from the DDA toward the estimated $1.35 million in renovations required to bring the building up to standards. The DDA plans to provide half the money at the beginning of the project and the other half at the end.
"It's a great deal for us, but it's also a great deal for Fenton," Mason said. "It's tough to find a good, viable use for some of these great historic buildings, but it's a perfect fit for us. It really adds the right atmosphere."
The company is expected to bring in 50 to 75 jobs. Officials said applications would be accepted in April 2012.
Burns said the city has been trying to fill the space since 2003.
“We believe this is a key project to revitalizing downtown,” he said. “We selected a family-based business that wants to be here. It’s a big step for us to keep us moving forward.”