You know what the hardest part is about planning a brewery? Having a free second to tell you all about it.
Well, maybe finding a location too.
The past several weeks have seen our “planning” go from 0-100 in intensity and direction. We have spent countless hours over the past year formulating a business plan and a pro forma while searching for a location that truly fits the vision and plan that we have created. Location searching, from what I hear from other brewers in planning as well as our own experience, is one of the toughest parts of the game. Especially here in Charleston. Meeting all of the municipal requirements for zoning and use as well as finding something that makes financial sense is damn near impossible. That being said, there is a lot of empty warehouse space over near where we live and it is dirt cheap, but it doesn’t fit with the very specific idea we have of NOT being a destination brewery in the middle of nowhere. We want to be much closer to a population center.
And that makes it very tough.
However, all of the sudden, in the past month and a half, we have had five location opportunities suddenly appear that either fit or came very close to fitting our vision.
We had to dig in quickly to vet each of the locations and determine if they met the zoning and use requirements, if they had the appropriate utility connections, and whether or not they fit into the financial plan. Three of the five opportunities looked amazing on the surface, but with further scrutiny, they just didn’t make sense for one reason or another.
Our 29492 friends and followers will be disappointed to know that one of the options that we were VERY seriously looking at was on Daniel Island proper. We actually got as far as getting approval from the City of Charleston but then some factors that we had no control over made the location unavailable. In the end we believe it was a blessing in disguise for a number of reasons, one of which was that it was by far the most expensive option.
One of the locations was a vacant piece of land that looked incredible, but after further scrutiny, we discovered that it was so low that it needed half a million dollars in fill dirt just to get it up to grade. Ouch. Good luck to whoever tries to build ANYTHING there!
The third option was initially looking like it might be the best option that we had seen. It was a very old shell building located in an already vibrant commercial area with lots of foot traffic. We initiated contact with the broker and discovered that the owners were not willing to offer ANY upfit or improvements on the location nor would they be interested in selling the location at all. We presented an LOI for a lease on the property with what we believed to be a fair offer. It was immediately rejected on the grounds that it was worth much more than what we were offering. We vehemently disagreed and then made an offer to purchase the location. It was also denied. We began the age-old tug-of-war of lease negotiations which went back and forth several times. We were basically told that what we wanted would never happen in the area that we were looking for the price we wanted. At the height of our negotiations, there was a personal family matter that arose that caused us to stall negotiations while dealing with the family emergency. Don’t fret. The matter, while serious, is under control.
Call it divine intervention, calculated strategic prowess, or just plain ‘ole dumb luck, but during the two weeks that the negotiations on the old building were on hold, we were presented with what can only be described as two incredible opportunities that caused all others to pale in comparison. Both opportunities would be new construction, built-to-suite buildings in the same area as the old building and both options give us the opportunity to own the property.
So at this very moment, that is the conundrum we face. Which of the two home-run opportunities will be the best option for Pearce and I? Both are only a matter of signing on the dotted line. Either one could be ours at any moment.
In the next few weeks we will be meeting with banks, investors, advisors, mentors, and whoever else will give us a minute to lend their thoughts on which option to go with. We have set a deadline of Labor Day 2016 to make the decision. At that point we will enter a due diligence period and once we clear any hurdles we will make an announcement. Exciting, huh?
This is truly only a fraction of all that has been going on in our brewing world. I have so much to tell you and so little time. In the next few weeks keep your eyes peeled for posts about us winning a People’s Choice award at a local homebrew garden, our GABF Pro-Am brew with Revelry Brewing here in Charleston, and about my new position at that same commercial brewery. I bet you just can’t wait…
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