PITTSFIELD — Councilors voted unanimously Monday to pave the way for a downtown brewery and taproom, an outgrowth of 51 Park in Lee.
The council's Community and Economic Development Committee granted initial support for spending $150,000 from the city's Economic Development Fund toward the brewpub, which would occupy the former J. Allen's space at 41 North St.
Mayor Linda Tyer proposed the grant, as well as a tax incentive, asserting the brewery would be a boon for downtown. The move requires a final vote from the full council.
The establishment would be called "41 North" and it's slated to open later this year. The bar area would be designed with visual exposure to the brewing operation.
The owner, Robert Trask, said he plans to invest $1.7 million on the property. His plan is to purchase the building at an estimated $900,000. The rest of his estimated investment includes $450,000 in equipment costs and $350,000 in startup costs.
He plans to renovate the building and move the bar so that it's more centrally located between front and rear entrances, he told councilors. He also plans to install a stage for live music and a projector screen for watch parties.
And unlike some taprooms, Trask said good food would be as important as the beer.
"I think the food aspect of this is a huge, huge draw," he said, noting the menu would be "beer-inspired" and made up of items that pair well with the hoppy libation.
The venue plans to host "kegs and eggs" on Sundays, he said.
Trask said he intends to continue lease agreements with the two current tenants, Hot Harry's and Evangelistic Ministry Church.
The business plan includes the creation of 30 jobs, ranging from support staff to operational management and head brewers. Averaged out between the different roles, employees would earn an average annual salary of $36,533.
Trask said the North Street operation would yield craft beer to sell onsite, as well as at his Lee restaurant, 51 Park. He also plans to can and sell some of the product.
Past pubs and restaurants have struggled with the large size of the space, Community Development Director Deanna Ruffer said, but a brewery and taproom would make more economical use of the floorplan. And it would be a leg up for the Berkshire's craft beer industry, which has lagged behind national trends.
The $150,000 award would account for less than 10 percent of the overall investment, she said.
The city would disburse $100,000 upon purchase of the equipment, and $25,000 each if the business meets two separate hiring thresholds.
The city would recoup funds if the business closes within 10 years, moves outside the city or fails to meet employment thresholds. Ruffer noted, though, that the plan includes forgiveness, meaning the amount owed to the city decreases by $15,000 per year.
Later this week, councilors on a different subcommittee will consider a tax increment financing plan for the operation. That plan would forgive $38,497 in taxes over the brewery's first five years.
Ward 3 Councilor Nick Caccamo said brewpubs play an important role in a downtown economy. Before Pittsfield Brew Works closed 10 years ago, he said it was a gathering place for young professionals.
"There was a lot of positivity coming through that," he said.
Amanda Drane can be contacted at email@example.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.