New microbrewery on the way for Benton Township

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP — A vacant building near the North Shore Inn in Benton Township is in the process of being turned into a microbrewery.

Darrow Properties Inc. of St. Joseph requested a special use permit to open a microbrewery in the building at 670 North Shore Drive. The building will be renovated to accommodate seating and the tap room.

Jay Fettig, who will be the owner of the proposed microbrewery, said it will be called North Pier Brewing Co. Darrow Properties owns the parcel and will lease the building to Fettig and the microbrewery.

The Benton Township Planning Commission recommended the approval to the Board of Trustees after a Sept. 14 public hearing, where several residents attended in support of the microbrewery.

The property is in a E-restricted industrial zoning district, which does not allow the making of alcohol and requires a public hearing before the Planning Commission and approval from the township’s trustees.

Micorbreweries can sell beer in their own taverns or through retailers across the state.

“We can produce beer on site and then we can sell that beer for on- and off-premise use,” Fettig said. “With the license we will have, we won’t have liquor or wine. It is just to serve beer produced in house. Ideally, we would like to get into distribution, so we need enough space to do that in the long run.”

With their own tap room and a state microbrewery license, Fettig said the company can produce up to 30,000 barrels per year. However, because of the building’s size, the limit looks to be about 2,500 barrels.

Fettig walked trustees through the site’s layout drawing during Tuesday’s meeting, explaining they intend to be able to serve 60 people inside with an additional 20 outside. The building would add restrooms and parking spaces.

Benton Township Director of Inspections Tom Baldwin said the remaining structure, which dates to the mid-1920s, was the old Anderson Patterson Works.

“It’s been derelict for the last few years,” Baldwin said. “There hasn’t been a functioning business there for the last half dozen years. It’s going to be a major renovation.”

Hours are not set, but Fettig said they are looking at noon to 11 p.m. or midnight during weekdays and 11 a.m. until midnight on weekends.

“The operation hours are not quite finalized, but it will be more similar to a winery or restaurant versus a bar that is open late night,” Fettig said. “That was one of the big concerns. We will be shutting down earlier than later.”

The plan is to reuse the building as well as the extension, built in the 1950s. Township trustees approved the proposed site plan and the special use permit.

The microbrewery won’t be large enough to house a kitchen, Fettig said, so the company will team up with North Shore Inn to provide customers with food.

“We think it is important to offer food. With North Shore being so close, it seemed to make sense to partner with them,” he said. “I talked to the owners of North Shore and they were very excited to have us as neighbors. We are open to do an almost takeout service for our customers as well.”

When asked how many employees the microbrewery would have, Fettig said they would have one head brewer, one assistant and one or two others working part time to begin with.

“Down the road I hope to expand production,” Fettig said. “I’m from the area originally and moved back last year. I liked the idea of being in the Benton Harbor/Benton Township area. Being around Harbor Shores a lot, I thought that would be a cool location for a microbrewery.”

Work should be completed by late spring or early summer in 2016. The estimated date of completion depends on how long remodeling takes as well as how long it takes to get a liquor license.

Fettig’s next step will be to submit an application for a microbrewery license and a brewer’s notice.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Oct. 23, 2015)

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