ENGLEWOOD — Englewood Brews, once a promising enterprise planned for a beleaguered Southwest Side neighborhood, may be dead in the water as owners, a local development corporation and the area’s alderman clash over the project.
Englewood Brews was to be the first taproom and brewery in a predominantly Black neighborhood. It has been a four-year-long labor of love for owner Lesley Roth and her partner, Steve Marchese. The pair raised tens of thousands of dollars and started construction on the project last year in a vacant storefront at 821 W. 63rd St.
Then the work stopped.
Roth blamedthe Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation, which held the lease on the building, but officials for the organization denied shutting down any work. Leaders did confirm the group canceled Englewood Brews lease in spring of this year after months of legal wrangling, though they provided few details.
That touched off a months-long feud that has ensnared Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th), with Englewood Brews owners publicly accusing local leaders of sabotaging the project.
“Our brewery is about celebrating what’s great about each other. GECDC doesn’t want that,” Roth wrote in an Instagram post in May. “They are opportunists who want to take away the community’s rights of self-determination. They would rather dictate to Englewood about what businesses are good for the neighborhood and what’s good for community members.”
But Derrick Warren, executive director of the Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation, said the group long supported the project despite numerous roadblocks and a “lack of respect” from Roth and Marchese.
“We have worked extremely hard to expand the positive reputation of the GECDC. With this in mind, it is disappointing that Englewood Brews is attempting to defame our organization by their misrepresentation of events as it pertains to the termination of their sublease,” Warren said in a statement to Block Club.
“Throughout our entire business relationship with Englewood Brews, the GECDC has acted properly, both legally and ethically, with the best interest of the Englewood community in mind.”
Work At A Standstill
The purpose of the community-minded Englewood Brews venture was twofold: to give Englewood’s economy a much-needed shot in the arm while broadening access to an industry that has traditionally shut out Black and indigenous people of color.
Roth and Marchese launched an IndieGoGo campaign in December to raise $50,000 in hopes of completing the buildout of their space. The campaign has netted nearly $36,000 so far.
Construction started that month but was abruptly halted.
Roth claims their contractor found asbestos, which she said isn’t uncommon. She said they notified the development corporation and U.S. Bank, which owns the building.
“U.S. Bank totally understood the issue and was fine, since we were paying for the remediation, and encouraged us to keep going,” Roth said. “But GECDC used this as leverage to ask us for additional assurances that we would pay them a contribution.”
Officials with the development corporation said Englewood Brews subleased the space for free, even though they valued it at $15,000 a month. They also said the lease contained certain terms Roth and Marchese violated, but they said they could not be more specific.
The two sides went back and forth through their attorneys for a year. The development corporation gave the owners one last chance to comply with the lease before it was ultimately terminated in April.
Exasperated, Roth recently took to social media to criticize the group, imploring supporters of the venture to contact Taylor in hopes of saving the project.
“The failure of this nonprofit organization to support economic development and continued recovery of Englewood is exacerbating the community’s wealth gap,” Roth wrote on Instagram. “GECDC is allowing Englewood to be left out of moving forward and receiving a portion of the economic benefit the rest of the City receives.”
Taylor told Block Club she felt like she was being attacked.
“I’m getting calls into my office about them, but no one had talked to me, so I didn’t know where this was coming from,” said Taylor, who added she was open to mediating a conversation between the two parties. “I have no problem with talking to them, but that post was unnecessary.”
Taylor and Roth are supposed to have a phone conversation this week.
“We love to support nonprofits in Englewood. So many of them are doing good work, and we know that this one organization doesn’t speak for all of Englewood,” Roth said. “But they’re taking away this opportunity from the community and essentially diminishing the positive impact so many people are trying to effect.”
“Given the level of support the GECDC has provided to Englewood Brews, it is appalling for the GECDC to be falsely accused of extortion,” Warren wrote. “It is quite disrespectful and insulting for Englewood Brews to suggest that the GECDC would in any way extort a prospective community business, or anyone for that matter.”
Warren ended the letter by criticizing Roth and her partner over the social media posts, saying that they were “indicative of their lack of true community engagement.”
“… Englewood Brews has a lack of respect for the GECDC, our alderwoman, our community, corporate partners, as well as the impactful relationships the GECDC has built for the benefit of the Englewood community,” Warren said.
With work at a standstill and community relationships frayed, the entrepreneurs now wonder if their $300,000 investment will be for nothing.
“They’ve destabilized us,” Roth said. “We could’ve provided skills, internships, career pipelines. Now we’ve got to figure out what our next steps are.”
After Years Of Waiting, Lake Effect Brewing’s Plan To Open Taproom In Old Firehouse May Get OK Next
Posted 2020-06-30 08:37:48
If the city gives final approval to the plan this summer, construction could start the fall.
JEFFERSON PARK — Lake Effect Brewing Company may soon be able to start construction to take over a historic vacant firehouse in Jefferson Park.
The brewery has been working with builder Ambrosia Homes to acquire the 4841 N. Lipps Ave. firehouse from the city for the past four years.
The plan is to convert it into a brewery with a tasting room on the ground floor for Lake Effect and then have apartments on the firehouse’s other floors.
After years of the project creeping its way through the city’s various departments, the plans will be presented to the city’s zoning committee next month. If the zoning committee signs off, the project will go before the full City Council for approval July 22.
Lake Effect is currently nestled between two underpasses and behind a costume shop at 4727 W. Montrose Ave. Clint Bautz, Lake Effect’s owner, has been in business for eight years but said having a taproom is the next step to growing the business.
“It was taking so long to get approved I started looking at other possible locations. Some of them were outside of the city,” Bautz said. “But then I got a call about the firehouse moving forward again which was music to my ears.”
Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) has submitted letters of support for the project, Bautz said. Gardiner did not respond to a request for comment.
In March 2018, Ambrosia unveiled its plans to invest $2.4 million in the historic firehouse originally built in 1906.
Original plans called for the developer to renovate the space into a four-story, mixed-use project with Lake Effect on the first floor and apartments on the firehouse’s other floors.
After residents asked the developer to preserve the look of the firehouse, the height was adjusted to three floors for a total of nine apartments above the brewery.
Tim Pomaville, Ambrosia’s president, says the slow process was expected due to the complexities of acquiring city-owned property and the various city departments that had approve it.
“As it travels through the city, each department usually adds their input and now we’re finally in the zoning department phase,” he said.
During the review process, the city’s environmental department removed an underground storage tank at the property and identified some lead and asbestos contamination that must be remediated during construction.
Pomaville hopes the city finalizes the plan this summer so construction crews can start renovating in the fall.
“I’m super excited and can’t wait to get this over the finish line,” he said.
Humboldt Park’s First Brewery Targets a Late July Unveiling
The owners of Orkenoy want to build a community of artists surrounded by delicious food and drink
A lot has changed since last year when the team behind Orkenoyannounced plans to open Humboldt Park’s first brewery. The beer is just a small part of the ambitious project, located off the 606 elevated trail at Kimball, is now targeted to open in late July or early August inside the Kimball Arts Center.Orkenoy will lean into that setting with a philosophy similar to an arts collective. The space will host concerts, gallery shows, and more. The kitchen talent also includes chefs who’ve worked at a trio of popular Chicago brewpubs.
Last year, the team was fronted by Jonny Ifergan (a musician who plays in a rock band called the Kickback) and Ryan Sanders (a chef who worked a Lagunitas Brewing in Douglas Park and High Dive bar in West Town). They’ve added two new members. Briana Hestad is Orkenoy’s operations manager. She’s worked in England at London Beer Lab. They’ve also named Madison Burns as sous chef. She worked at Forbidden Root in West Town and at Band of Bohemia, America’s only Michelin-starred brewpub.
Range Design & Architecture is designing the space. They’ve worked on Hopewell Brewing in Logan Square and Avondale Bowl. They plan to mesh Danish design with bright South Beach colors.
Ifergan, who worked at Whiner Beer, will brew farmhouse-style beers. Sanders is creating a menu of sharable plates for to-go and dine-in customers. The menu will carry some Nordic inspiration, while the beer will use locally foraged ingredients that can also be found in Norway, Denmark, Estonia, and other northern European countries. Look for Scandinavian open-faced sandwiches. The bar will sell crowlers. Cocktails will also find Nordic inspiration. Hestad calls her concoctions “Neo-Nordic tiki.”
The crew hoped to open in 2019, but plans snarled. There’s also a coffee component. A spokesperson says they’ll reveal more news about that at a later date. While Oreknoy remains on track as Humboldt Park’s first brewery, its founders want potential customers that it’s only a part of the project. Check back for updates this summer. The opening date remains fluid. Don’t forget the country remains in the middle of a public health crisis.
Orkenoy, 1757 N Kimball Avenue, inside the Kimball Arts Center, planned for a late July or early August opening
The crew at Orkenoy, a brewpub and arts collective opening in Humboldt Park. Jim Vondruska/Orkenoy
New Brewery Coming To Kimball Arts Center Alongside 606 Will Focus On Lagers, Shared Plates And Good
Posted 2019-06-14 09:25:27
HUMBOLDT PARK — A new brewery and taproom, called Ørkenoy, is coming to the Kimball Arts Center next to The 606’s Bloomingdale Trail and it’s expected to open by the end of the year.