Belmar approves plans for East Coast Beer Co. brewery
This article originally appeared on NJ.com
BELMAR – The East Coast Beer Company, the brewers of the popular Beach Haus brand beers, is another step closer to opening the doors to its new headquarters and brewery operations on Main Street.
At its regular meeting Monday night, the borough's Planning Board granted the beer company the final site plan approval and the change-of-use variance it needed to convert the high-profile former Freedman's Bakery building into a fully functioning brewery that will also feature tours, beer tastings and a retail component.
"There's been a tremendous amount of work and excitement to get us to this point, so it's nice to see everything coming together," said Joel Brudner, a partner with the Wall-based real estate investment company MB1 Partners, which now owns the building and has a financial interest in the beer company. "We really like the location and love the town of Belmar – it's representative of what we're trying to do and of what the founders of the East Coast Beer Company had in mind when they established Beach Haus beer, which is marketing a beer with a Jersey Shore theme."
East Coast Beer Co. was founded out of a garage in 2007 by a pair of high school friends from Brick Township, John Merklin and Brian Ciriaco. They started selling Beach Haus in Monmouth and Ocean counties in 2010, and now distribute their beers throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and the Carolinas.
The beer company currently "contract brews," meaning it develops the recipes and then pays a separate company – in this case a larger brewery in Upstate New York – to rent the time and equipment needed to make the beer.
Merklin told NJ.com in September that the decision to come to Belmar was a "very easy one," due to Belmar's iconic reputation on the Jersey Shore, the founders' personal connection to the borough from having visited it frequently growing up and now with their families, its accessibility from major roadways, the cost savings of brewing locally and, of course, the planned site itself.
The brewery and its related operations will occupy more than half of the roughly 30,000-square-foot building, Brudner said, while the remaining 10,000 to 12,000-square feet would be leased, through Sitar Realty, to other commercial tenants.
Architecturally, the aging existing bakery building would be completely renovated to feature a "pier-themed" façade complete with actual wood pilings, additional windows, new awnings, a new roof and an open-air patio located off the brewery's second-floor tasting room, Brudner said.
The multi-million dollar investment by MB1 Partners and East Coast Beer Co. will mark a new beginning for the historic building, which has often been referred to as an "eyesore" by borough residents and officials.
"Even though the existing structure is very strong and well built, this will be a total overhaul," said Brudner, adding the building will also receive completely new mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire detection/suppression systems. "And from an architectural perspective, we're really happy to be heading in a different direction – one that really represents us well and the town well."
Minor cleanup efforts are already underway at the site after Freedman's Bakery closed its doors there earlier this year after 60 years in business. The developers were still waiting on demolition and final construction permits as of Tuesday afternoon, Brudner said, but added those were anticipated "any day."
"Whatever work we need to do will begin as soon as those permits are issued," he said. "Ideally, we hope to be operating by mid to late summer. That's an aggressive schedule, but we also want to do things the right way. So if we're not there by the middle of this summer, we will still have many summers ahead."