Microbrewery hopes to be next new business in Vandergrift
A Washington County man wants to open a microbrewery in Vandergrift, adding to a wave of new businesses in the borough including a winery and a restaurant that serves wood-fired pizza.
But first, Allusion Brewing Co. must clear the borough's zoning hearing board, which will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. March 13 in council chambers at 109 Grant Ave.
Allusion is asking for a zoning variance for the proposed site of the brewery, 143 Grant Ave. The property is zoned for commercial use, but a brewery is not listed in borough zoning laws as a permissible use, Borough Manager Steve DelleDonne said.
Mary Jo Riddle, an officer with the Vandergrift Improvement Program (VIP), which owns 143 Grant Ave., said the brewery would add to the excitement downtown.
“It's amazing when I leave at night, there are cars parked in the business district,” she said.
One of the brewery's owners, Robert Buchanan, 40, of Washington, Pa., wanted to open the business in a small town.
“The demand, the jobs and tourism created by breweries is why we wanted to aim for a small town,” he said.
The brewery would feature front and back lounges with seating for about 50, and a selection of beer and a light food menu.
Buchanan's partner is brewer John Bieranoski of Lower Burrell, whose cousin owns the Wooden Door Winery in Allegheny Township, which recently expanded to Vandergrift.
Brewery trying to come to town since 2016
In 2016, the brewery vied with the borough's No. 2 Volunteer Fire Company to buy the former J.C. Penney building on Grant Avenue, used several years ago for filming in the TV series “Banshee.”
That building, as well as 143 Grant Ave., is owned by the VIP, a nonprofit economic development group.
The fire company wanted the J.C. Penney building for a community social club.
VIP was more interested in the brewery's offer, which was higher than the fire department's. But the deal never went through.
However, the brewery still is interested in using the building to expand eventually, according to Buchanan.
The fire company has moved on and is not currently interested in the J.C. Penney building, according to Steve Potoka, fire chief for the No. 2 Volunteer Fire Company.
The brewery would continue to pep up the once-beleaguered business district, according to other merchants.
Jonelle Beard-Harris of Latrobe and her husband, Wes Harris, own Ianni's wood-fired pizza restaurant, which opened late last year. This is the third Ianni's restaurant; others are in New Derry and Delmont.
“My husband and I looked online and fell in love with the building,” she said of the signature rounded façade of their Grant Avenue restaurant.
The brewery will just add to the buzz on the street, she said.
At Tees N Tops, on Grant Avenue since 1981, another business coming in means one less empty storefront, according to owner Dan Albert.
“There's a lot of businesses coming in a short period of time,” he said.
Andy Batiz, owner of AJ's, a restaurant on Washington Avenue since 1985, said, “The more businesses in town, the better. We have to do something about these empty storefronts.”