Awkward Brewing has the go-ahead. At Thursday night’s Fayetteville City Council meeting, a rezoning request was approved to pave the way for the proposed microbrewery across Lee Street from City Hall.
The plots at 240 and 250 Lee Street will be rezoned from R-22 (Single Family Residential) to C-1 (Downtown Historic Mixed Use). The land is currently occupied by two houses, two garages and a small barn. The main house would remain a two-unit residential apartment, the smaller ranch house would be torn down and one of the garages would be converted into commercial restrooms.
The 1,071 square foot garage on the north side of the property would be divided in half, split between a tasting room and a microbrewery. The plan would include a tasting room and outdoor areas with seating, games and recreation.
To comply with the noise ordinance in effect daily from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., the proposed hours it would be open to the public are Thursday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Amanda and Andrew Poliak are the family behind the brewery, bringing with them brewing experience from starting out of their garage in Seattle before moving to Fayetteville two years ago. The Poliaks’ vision is for a family-friendly establishment that compliments the downtown area. Rather than just come to Awkward Brewing for a drink and go home, they see patrons stopping in and walking towards the square to get food.
“This is not intended to be a bar, this is intended to be a craft-brew scene. It’s to bring a gathering of people in a social environment to taste a delicious adult beverage while their children might be sipping an apple juice and playing corn hole,” said Amanda. “It’s about people gathering and being social within your city and then walking down and getting (food). I see it as more for culture rather than a party house or a bar.”
In addressing some of the concerns related to the project, Senior Planner Julie Brown gave an overview of the project. Located around the corner from Fayetteville First Baptist Church, Awkward Brewing would meet the state code requirement of a minimum 100 yards from the brewery to the church building. The distance measures roughly the same as that from Margarita Momma’s on the square at 650 feet.
The applicants will require a buffer variance on one side of the property. On the edge where the proposed brewery and tasting room sits, there is not enough room for the full 30-foot buffer, but Brown noted that the adjoining property owner who would be affected by the buffer issue had submitted a letter saying they were okay with both the buffer variance and use of the building for a brewery.
To alleviate concerns from the church about patrons crossing their parking lot, the Poliaks have agreed to erect a fence around the property line to restrict access.
“We really want to become a very helpful member of this community,” said Andrew Poliak.
Mayor Ed Johnson applauded their efforts to hear the concerns of the neighbors.
“For me, it says a lot about your due diligence, and I appreciate that, reaching out to our already-established community,” he said.
Brown reminded council that the microbrewery would fit in with the downtown development vision that has been in place for many years. She specifically referred to an economic development incentive policy adopted by council in 2007.
“It states there are four targeted industry groups that Fayetteville should specifically try to attract, retain, and expand with incentive programs,” she said. “Breweries is listed at the top of the targets.”
Brown’s recommendation was clear.
“Because the comprehensive plan and future land use map call for mixed-use in this area and the economic report says that we should try to attract breweries, staff is recommending approval.”
The rezoning request was approved 4-1, with Rich Hoffman in opposition.
Hoffman laid out his reasons for voting against the request, saying he did not like that they would be putting the brewery into an existing structure, rather than starting fresh.
“To me, I picture this in Alabama and the only thing that’s missing is a trailer,” he said. “I feel like what we’re not doing here is building something we can all be proud of, we’re making due with what’s already there.”
Public comments were overwhelmingly in support of the project.
Jacob Britt, a longtime family friend of the Poliaks, said he had seen similar projects boost the community when he lived in Washington.
“I want you guys to know that it’s an organic growth process, and the people that go all in with big money usually don’t get the results they’re looking for. It’s the ones that are embraced by the community and that responsibly grow with the community (that succeed),” he said.
William Dick chimed in, “Even though I don’t drink, I think this is a great idea.”
Tony Parrott said he appreciated that the project would reuse old buildings and keep them in the Main Street Area.
“We’re not bulldozing them and starting over with something bright and shiny,” he said.
Andrew Smola urged council to consider the microbrewery as an opportunity to attract younger families to move to, or stay in, Fayette County.
“The next generation of this town needs to be ensured that we’re going to continue our progress forward and that we’re not going to get stuck in the mud,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think a small brewery will be a great benefit to the town.”
Following the rezoning approval, the Poliaks will have to receive a special exception for their use, and they will have to go back before the Planning and Zoning Commission before any actual work is done on the building.