USA, CT: These Guys Brewing Co. to move into larger location and expand brewing operations
These Guys Brewing Co. plans to move from its Franklin Street location of five years into a two-story brick building at 49 Church St. in Norwich, with plans for an expanded brewing operation, a restaurant and bar on the main floor and rooftop seating and bar offering spectacular views of the harbor, the restaurants permit application states.
The Church Street building was constructed in 1955 to house the growing Beth Jacob Religious School, with a full-size gymnasium in the basement and classrooms on the main floor.
The Commission on the City Plan held a public hearing on November 17 and voted unanimously to approve the special permit for the plan.
The plan will give These Guys, owned by Rebecca and Raymond Alberts, the opportunity to expand its brewing operation with a canning line and possibly a tasting room in the expansive basement, which features 15-foot-high ceilings. A concept plan layout shows 18 brewing tanks in the basement. The plan for the main floor restaurant and bar shows seating for about 80 diners, plus a bar with 18 stools. The rooftop layout shows seating for 94, plus a bar with 22 stools. Access to the rooftop would be from the interior of the building, not directly from outside.
Raymond Alberts said Wednesday the couple hopes to open by June or July, with the roof deck plan as a second or third phase.
CLA Engineers Inc. assessed the roof and reported that it would need structural improvements to support the operations.
The property slopes down from Church Street, with a driveway providing direct access to the rear basement entrance, allowing access for deliveries and shipping, according to the permit application for These Guys. The property is "just steps away" from the city's Main Street parking garage, which has available parking after hours for customers.
During the public hearing, City Planner Deanna Rhodes said there are no parking requirements in the downtown Chelsea Central District. Project attorney Scott Camassar of RBS Property Management Co. LLC, representing the Alberts, said he spoke with Norwich Public Parking Commission Administrator Judi Rizzuto, who confirmed that the restaurants after-hours use of the parking garage would not be a problem.
TGBC is a destination, Camassar wrote, and expanding operations will allow for the long-term success of both the business and continued downtown revitalization.
Former Norwich City Planner William Sweeney, who said he is a friend of the Alberts and is a These Guys customer, urged the commission to support the application. He called it a creative reuse of an existing downtown building and an opportunity for Norwich to embrace a hometown business in its plan to expand within the city, rather than move to Mystic or other location.
Jason Vincent, president of the Norwich Community Development Corp., submitted a letter voicing strong support for the permit approval. He said These Guys has become an important landmark business in Historic Downtown Norwich.
Vincent also wrote that the Alberts have been active in the community, and the city should welcome their plans to expand and remain in Norwich.
It should also be noted that These Guys Brewing Companys ownership, management team and staff have all contributed to the vibrancy of the neighborhood, he wrote, beyond their business operations, through volunteerism and the patronage of other businesses. Today, the neighborhood has a net of over 40 new businesses, much of which can be attributed to their presence and contributions.
These Guys opened five years ago at 78 Franklin St., taking over space vacated by the former Chacers bar, which filled the space vacated by Billy Wilsons Ageing Still, which moved to nearby 57 Broadway.
The new location at 49 Church St. served as the Beth Jacob Religious School from its opening in 1955 until 1979, when the school moved into the new Beth Jacob Synagogue on New London Turnpike, said Faye Ringel, who attended the school from 1956 to 1964 and wrote the Jewish history of Norwich for the 2015 Slater Memorial Museum exhibit, John Meyer of Norwich: An American Original.
Ringel, a 1969 Norwich Free Academy graduate, recalled the Hebrew school was crowded and vibrant, with some 30 to 35 students per class during the baby boom era. Her brother, Mark, spent many hours in the basement gymnasium and was a star player in the thriving Norwich church and synagogue basketball league.
Ringel said the school was built at the urging of many Jewish downtown merchants who wanted a more modern building for the Hebrew school. Beth Jacob Synagogue, founded in 1929 with services in various downtown assembly halls, moved into the stone church on Church Street next door to the school in the 1930s.
Local grammar-school children made their way to the Beth Jacob Religious School three days a week two days during the week after regular school and on Sunday. They spent hours learning religion, Jewish history, literature, how to read Hebrew, learning the Bible and the prayer book and a little of modern Hebrew. Instruction was in English, she said, but some teachers were fluent in Hebrew.
Raymond Alberts said he and his wife plan to purchase the former school building, now that the restaurant plan has been approved. He said they had been searching for another location for an expanded operation for a while.
"We just kept looking every day, and it just popped up and we jumped on it," Alberts said.
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