2 men get approval to build microbrewery in Vandergrift, bringing jobs and hope to town
Two friends who brewed their first beer at home in a lobster pot five years ago are a step closer to opening their own microbrewery in Vandergrift.
The borough's zoning hearing board on Tuesday approved a variance for Robert Buchanan and John Bieranoski to locate Allusion Brewing Co. at 143 Grant Ave.
"We're very excited about their decision," said Buchanan, of Ross Township.
The approval was conditioned on their securing a lease for the space with the building owner, the Vandergrift Improvement Program. The group is expected to discuss and possibly approve a lease when it meets Wednesday.
VIP officials said they have a draft lease and an agreement in principle.
"We're excited and looking forward to it," VIP Chairwoman Julie Martin said.
The three-member zoning hearing board was down to two members, following last week's resignation of Brian Carricato, a former councilman. Solicitor Jerry Little said the board could proceed with two members, but any decision would have to be unanimous.
Although the building is in a commercially zoned area, a microbrewery is not a listed permitted use. Little noted that a liquor store would be permitted, as would a restaurant and a tavern.
In response to questions from Little, Buchanan said the brewing process is not noisy. The only odor would be from yeast, and similar to a bakery or pizzeria.
No one spoke against the project during the zoning board's public hearing.
"It was amazing to be in there and see all the support," said Bieranoski, of Allegheny Township.
Buchanan said they plan to produce beer on-site, in the back of the building, which had once been a dairy.
The layout would include a bar and seating in the front, and a lounge area with more seating toward the middle.
Hoping for fall opening
If all goes well, Buchanan said they hope to start work in the summer and open between Halloween and Christmas.
Buchanan said their long-term goal is to open a full restaurant and bar in the former J.C. Penney building across the street, at 134 Grant Ave, which is also owned by the Vandergrift Improvement Program.
While bigger than 143 Grant Ave., the building needs a lot of work after having been used for filming of the Cinemax series "Banshee," Buchanan said.
They also aren't certain its floor would support the weight of their brewing equipment.
After getting started at 143 Grant, where the brewing equipment would stay, Buchanan said opening at the former J.C. Penney is three to five years away.
"We'll get there with that building as well," Buchanan said.
Buchanan said they will initially employ 10 people.
The full restaurant and bar could create 50 to 60 jobs.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BCRittmeyer.