Of the 189 craft breweries in Texas, about 20 – according to TABC permit records – are in Houston. And nearly a third of that number are in The Leader area, with three more coming down the pike. Great Heights Brewing on Wakefield is scheduled for a mid 2017 opening. Allen’s Landing next to the Big Chill in Oak Forest has acquired TABC approval and plans to start construction in January. And Holler Brewing in the First Ward says they’ll open this year.
Just what are these brewers looking for in a space?
When Great Heights Brewing Company’s Sean Bednarz and Patrick Christian startedlooking, they had a list of both wishes and needs.
One statutory requirement was to avoid the perhaps not-for-long dry areas in the Heights. That of course went for those spots in proximity to churches and schools as well.
Something that Bednarz said he didn’t expect was having to avoid locations in the flood plain due to FEMA’s substantial improvement rule which mandates strict adherence to additional building codes for any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvement of a structure, the cost of which equals or exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the structure before the “start of construction” of the improvement.
“With all the improvements we’d need to make, we’d come up to that 50 percent pretty quickly,” said Bednarz.
Then there was a wish list – good location, affordability, at least 5,000 square feet and ample parking. High ceilings would also be a plus to allow them to expand vertically.
Because of their specific list, there were “not a lot of options available,” especially in the Heights proper, so Bednarz and Christian were very pleased to come across a property at 938 Wakefield. As the two owners lived in the immediate area, they knew what a booming street Wakefield was.
After a lengthy lease negotiation with the landlord, who also operates his auto business out of the large U shaped building, they procured a long term lease with the right of first refusal should further space become available. Bednarz says this gave them the flexibility for future expansion they were looking for.
While they got most things they wanted, Bednarz said they wished there was a little more parking, and of course – that the price would have been less.
“It’s a perfect location,” he said. “You pay a premium to be in the middle of this neighborhood.”
For Eureka Heights Brew Company’s Casey Motes, the former Jake’s Finer Foods at 941 W 18th St. ticked off a lot of boxes.
When he and his partners were looking, Motes said they limited their search to a 5 or 6 mile radius of downtown, with a focus on the northwest side of the city.
The warehouse they are leasing, which has 20,000 square feet – more than their 8,000-12,000 square foot requirement – just happens to be near all the owners’ homes in Lazybrook.
Another plus, the “really tall” 20 to 25 foot ceilings allow for their 15 foot tanks, leaving ample room for utilities and water pipes above.
A welcome extra was the built in coolers – formerly used for food storage – but now for beer.
The parking lot was a deal cementer – “it fits over 100 cars, when most of the others we looked at fit 20 to 30 spots maximum,” said Motes.
The newly opened Platypus Brewing, featuring Australian craft brew at 1902 Washington Avenue, also has a huge parking lot. Sean Hanrahan, who opened the brewery with wife Rachna and partner Morgan Hughes, said they wanted to be in the inner loop, ideally in a 4,500 to 5,000 square foot space. They landed near the burgeoning scene at Sawyer Yards, also a bonus.
The former plumbing supply company, turned nightclub, offered a rustic feel that appealed to the owners.
“It had a character we could add to,” said Hanrahan. The indoor/outdoor feel – the brewery features a large patio – had a welcome sensibility to the Aussies.
Like the other two brewers, Hanrahan wanted enough space to expand – in the case of Platypus they could triple their production in time.
“We really feel we got something special,” said Hanrahan.