ALBANY, N.Y. - St. Joe's, a historic, Gothic-style church in the Ten Broeck Triangle neighborhood of Albany, could be serving up hand-crafted beer soon.
Brennon Cleary, a co-owner of the hopeful brewing company, confirmed on Sunday that ‘Raven's Head Brewing Company' has applied for a variance to the city's Board of Zoning Appeals.
St. Joe's Church has been owned by the Historic Albany Foundation since 2003, and the foundation has undergone a lengthy process of searching for the right fit for a new business to inhabit the beautiful location.
They have considered a number of different proposals, from night-clubs to libraries.
"We're not property developers," said Susan Holland, Executive Director of the Historic Albany Foundation. "But we're exploring."
‘Raven's Head Brewing Company,' owned by Brennon Cleary and Drew Grimes, is a self-proclaimed ‘start-up brewery and brew-pub, specializing in both the new "American style" craft brews and the tried and true continental styles.'
St. Joe's Church has hosted occasional community events over the years, including Albany's popular 'Restoration Festival,' but is in need of a long-term source of revenue, in order to keep the church safe and thriving.
"There are a lot of moving parts in this story," said Holland. "And we're talking to everyone. We're being as open as possible with the community. It is controversial with the neighbors right now."
All movement within the community and by the brewery will remain at a stand-still until the regulatory meeting with the Board of Zoning Appeals on December 12th, 2012.
"There is a silent majority that is starting to come forward," said Holland. "Generally when people agree with something, they aren't as vocal as they are when they disagree. But people within the community are starting to get excited about the brewery as a real potential for Albany."
The following is a 'Questions and Answers' transcript from a community meeting in June with the ‘Raven's Head Brewing Company,' which is posted on the Historic Albany Foundation's website at http://www.historic-albany.org/docs/2012RavensHeadQAStatements.pdf. Members of the community asked the questions, and the Historic Albany Foundation, along with Raven's Head Brewing, responded:
Tuesday, June 5th, 2012, from 5:30 - 7:00 p.m.
Q & A's:
Q: What will happen to the dog park with fountain?
A: Nothing. It is owned by the City and is not a part of this project, nor can it be a part of the sale of the building.
Q: What will be the impact on the neighborhood with the distribution part of the business?
A: Small trucks, no larger than a Verizon truck, will shuttle the barrels to an off-site small warehouse.
Q: What will the operating hours be?
A: 11am-11pm. Ideally, Raven's Head would like 11am-11pm, however, this would be a part of the application to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) for the use variance and would be subject to approval by the BZA.
Q: If parking will be off-street, how will you discourage patrons from parking in front of our houses?
A: Raven's Head Brewing is looking to use Ten Broeck Mansion's parking lot, and to work with other parking lots in the area. There will be a parking permit system in place during work hours as well.
Q: Why open Raven's Head at St. Joe's and not on Broadway or elsewhere?
A: Raven's Head looked at several locations, including St. John's in the Pastures Neighborhood, but there were many square footage problems. Raven's Head is looking for a unique and architecturally ‘special' location. They were taken with the beauty of St. Joe's, which has prompted them to take a further look into the building.
Q: The Palace hurts parking already; this will only make it worse.
A: Raven's Head is looking at many options to deal with the parking issue. One avenue they are looking at is a shuttle system to move people from parking location to brew-pub site. They are willing to look at any possibilities to make it work for the neighborhood. There will be parking concerns with St. Joe's, no matter what the building ends up being used for.
Q: Would the brewery be on the tax rolls?
Q: Trash will be a problem. Won't it lead to pest and rat problems?
A: The brewery has a very strict control policy for pests, and would work with a local company to ensure that there will not be any problems.
Q: What is the difference between the brewery's plan & Elda's?
A: Elda's wanted to have a night club and events venue. This would be a brewery and restaurant where the brewery's product is served. The restaurant will host tastings and special events.
Q: There were complaints about hosting Rest-Fest. Neighbors stressed that they wished to see community events in the building.
A: RestFest is a community event with live music. To raise funds to maintain and repair the building, HAF must let people into the building, including renting the space for events such as RestFest. Lawn care, drainage repair, and general maintenance are costly. We thank those who have donated time and money to help and encourage great ideas. HAF needs help. If you see people outside cleaning or picking up garbage, join.
Q: What about the neighborhood's quality of life? There will be drunks wandering around?
A: It is a bartender's responsibility to not serve overly drunk individuals. There is a $10,000 fine for that.
Q: Why can't the brewery be located by a college?
A: College students are not the demographic they are looking for. Craft breweries draw and prefer professional adults.
Q: Would there be any smells coming from the brewery?
A: No, everything will be in closed containers with no oxygen or light and the system is carbon dioxide pushed. If any smells, a little bit of roasted barley from the brewing process. That would happen at reasonable hours.
Q: Will there be live entertainment?
A: No, not at this point in time. If there was, it would be for special events, fundraisers, such as a string quartet.
Q: Is there an ordinance in place with regards to how many breweries can be in a location?
A: Up to 5 usually is ideal. But in Albany there is currently only one brewery, the Albany Pump Station.
Q: Will prices preclude college crowd?
A: All drinks are craft brewed, so they will be $6.99 per pint. The brewery is looking for a nice neighborhood to take tourists to.
Q: Are you flexible on the hours? Would you consider closing at 9 p.m.?
A: We are willing to be flexible. Special events may go later.