USA, VA: Staunton City Council approves new brewery at former Coca-Cola plant
The Staunton City Council unanimously approved a rezoning request on October 12 that brought John Schoeb one step closer to creating a 15- to 20-barrel microbrewery and tasting room at the site of the former Coca-Cola Bottling Works facility on North Augusta Street, The News Leader reported on October 13.
A restaurant may be added later, but for now Schoeb's plans are to brew beer for both Pro Re Nata brewery and music venue in Crozet, which he owns, and Chip Clarke's latest venture, The Steam Plant, located at 420 Richmond Ave. near the intersection with Greenville Avenue. Clarke purchased that property in 2017 and plans to create a music event space, which he hopes to break ground on this year.
"Will there be a restaurant in the future? Probably." Schoeb said when addressing council. "It's years down the road."
Instead of a restaurant now, Schoeb said he's spoken with restaurants in the area that he will partner with to deliver food to people at the new brewery.
The lot is approximately 30,000 square feet and the building is approximately 26,000 square feet, per city officials. In the 1970s, Coca Cola ceased operations at this location and moved to its current location in Jolivue. The building is located at 709 N. Augusta St.
The next steps are finalizing the building plans and getting approval for the historic renovations, Schoeb told The News Leader Friday.
"Asbestos identification and a removal planning has begun," he said. "Once that is finalized then we will apply for permits to begin removal of the asbestos."
Schoeb said they are bidding out the entire renovation currently and hope to have "some hard numbers in the next few weeks."
Once all permits and approvals are received, Schoeb said construction would begin. He anticipates a year from that point to opening.
"We are required, even with the new zoning approval, to serve our product on site," he said. "Therefore we will be opening the brewery and tasting room at the same time."
Schoeb said he's been trying to buy the building since 2016. It took until recently to reach an agreement.
With the building taking up most of the lot, there is no room for parking. Rodney Rhodes, Staunton's senior planner, said the Staunton City Code was amended in 2009 to add exceptions to the off-street parking requirements to exempt commercial buildings with little or no front, side or rear setbacks.
"There is no room on this lot for parking," Rhodes told council. "I would note that this amendment to the parking requirements was done to encourage this type of redevelopment of existing commercial buildings."
Schoeb is in talks with two neighbors about using their property for parking.
Rhodes said city staff has acknowledged that this brewery will create more traffic in the area, but the beer production will not create smoke, odor, dust or noise. Those have been the main concerns, per Rhodes, from anyone who has expressed objections to the rezoning request. The planning commission approved the request.
The city has also received about 40 emails in favor of the proposal and just four against.
During the public hearing Thursday, only one person, Clinton Davis, spoke against the proposal. The Sunnyside Street resident said most of the residents of the neighborhood surrounding the property aren't in favor.
"I don't know what emails you have, but I have never seen this gentleman in my neighborhood at all," Davis said, motioning toward Schoeb. "He hasn't been here. He hasn't come up and talked to nobody."
But others spoke in favor.
"I am very much in support of what we need to do in order to rezone this property so it can become productive," Brenda Mead said via Zoom. "It can add value to the neighborhood."
Schoeb, a retired dentist, started Pro Re Nata eight years ago, converting an old Moose lodge in Crozet into the venue.
"It was an eyesore," Schoeb said. "A lot of people said knock it down. We didn't want to do that. We put significant time, money and effort and converted the old building into something we're really proud of."
He said there have been very few complaints from neighbors in Crozet and the complaints he's received have been addressed.
"I'm a good neighbor to the people around Pro Re Nata brewery," Schoeb said.
Schoeb told The News Leader that he was very happy with the interaction he's had with Staunton officials.
"I am so grateful for the professionalism and eagerness of the Staunton officials and council members to help us and guide us through this process," he said. "It is refreshing to have local government that honestly wants to help small business develop and succeed."
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