The Ravens Head Brewing Company's selection of the Cohoes Armory for its start-up brewery/restaurant is a done deal, Ravens Head co-owner Brennon Cleary says. The company's offer on the building was accepted Monday, and the closing is expected March 15.
Cleary says Ravens Head is aiming to be producing beer by October, and if things come together smoothly, the planned restaurant could be open by November or December.
Cohoes wasn't the company's first choice. It had first set it sights on the former St. Joseph's church in Albany's Ten Broeck Triangle. But the property required a zoning variance, and some residents were very vocal in their concerns about the brew pub's potential effect on the neighborhood. Also making the site difficult: Ravens Head would have had to acquire a parking lot, pushing the cost of the project -- already projected to be $3 million -- too high.
The Albany board of zoning appeals hasn't issued a ruling on Ravens Head's request for a variance. But following a string of skeptical public comments at a December BZA meeting, and a common council resolution against the project, Ravens Head started looking for other options -- entered a offer on the Cohoes Armory in late January, as the Biz Review reported. In addition to Cohoes, the company also looked at sites in Troy, Lake George, Hudson, and Windham.
"Obviously St Joe's is a gem and walking away from that part of it really, really, really sucks," says Ravens Head's Brennon Cleary. "But it's like night and day. Cohoes was proactive. All the issues we ran into in Albany, Cohoes made sure they had the answers. I think they have a very good grasp into what they want to do there and how they want to do that, and it's refreshing. It took three weeks as opposed to 10 months and nearly $30,000 we spent working on Albany."
Cleary says he's excited about the possibility in Cohoes, pointing to the expansion of the Harmony Mills apartments, and a walkable downtown.
"There's a lot of people and I think there is a lot of opportunity for artistic, niche stores. It needs a few other upscale restaurants and a couple of more breweries in the area."
He's hoping to reach out to other local breweries to start some craft brewing festivals and include wineries and distillers as well. "My overall impression of the brewing industry is, except forthe major conglomerations, it's more like a fraternity with a number of collaborations between brewers." He says he'd even be interested in collaborating with other local breweries on products, citing recent collaborations by Stone and Dogfish Head and Victory breweries as examples of what is possible, though he hasn't approached other brewers yet.
Cleary says Ravens Head is paying $220,000 for the Cohoes Armory. The building includes 22,000 square feet with "[an] apartment, offices, storage/production areas, storage loft, loading dock, and room for trailer access," according to a real estate listing. A Craigslist item for property mentions "ample parking." The building is in an area zoned for mixed-use that allows for restaurants and bars (p. 58). (St. Joseph's is in an area zoned for residential, thus the need for a zoning variance.)
Ravens Head is the creation of Cleary and Brent Decker, who are both from New Jersey. They had previously worked for Verizon there, and are looking to start to the brewery as part of a career change. Cleary has already moved to Kinderhook, where Ravens Head recently bought property for storage.
Earlier and elsewhere:
+ Ravens Head Brewing focusing on Cohoes Armory
+ Ravens Head Brewing considering alternatives to St. Joseph's
+ TU: Church pub called a foul brew
+ TU: Council opposes church pub plan
+ Analysis from local brewer George de Piro
+ Is St. Joseph's Church a brewery in its next life?
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Cohoes Armory (planned site of Ravens Head Brewing)
33 Hart Street
Cohoes, NY 12047
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