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MOUNT VERNON — The Taproom of the Stein Brewing Company will be ready to open by Labor Day but, that isn’t likely, according to owner David Stein.
Stein told the News that Stein Brewing Co. got its partial occupancy, has received its American Homebrewers Association license, has finished construction on the Taproom equipment and has begun brewing, but will not receive full occupancy — or the go ahead to open — until that particular area of the Woodward has access to “make-up air.”
Make-up air, according to Woodward Project Manager Pat Crow, is fresh “healthy” air that is circulated throughout a building. It is the ventilation part of the HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system. The Woodward will be equipped with a variable refrigerant flow (VRF) HVAC system, according to Crow, and though the system is in place it is not yet operational.
Stein said he hopes to open around Sept. 14 but noted that he will open as soon as possible. The restaurant portion of SBC will open within 30 to 45 days of the taproom, according to Stein.
The taproom and restaurant, which Stein feels will be one of the most unique combinations of brewery and restaurant in the state of Ohio, once open, will create an atmosphere with “two distinct feels,” Stein said. The original plan was to integrate the two together in one cohesive space, Stein explained, but “historic parts of the building” made that difficult. Stein said the restaurant will be in the South Main Street space while the East Vine space will be dedicated to the taproom.
The SBC taproom will offer 50 seats and will provide more space in the way of occupancy with sections that are standing room only. Though the taproom is unlikely to open by Labor Day, Stein plans to offer at least one brew in the Sept. 7 First Friday beer garden.
The restaurant will offer 108 seats and will feature the work of Chef Erin Stevens, who has worked in the Columbus restaurant scene for years and who currently works as a chef at MAPFRE stadium for the Columbus Crew. Initially, Stein called Stevens, a high school acquaintance, to consult with her in the creation of the menu, but citing the need for a change of pace, Stevens has agreed to be the full-time chef at SBC. The menu will aim to offer something for everyone, with American smokehouse fare including barbecue, meatloaf, a specialty steak option as well as appetizers, salads and vegetarian options.
Stein explained that he hopes SBC will serve a need that he feels Mount Vernon has for a middle of the road casual sit-down dining option that isn’t fast food but also isn’t fine dining. Bigger chain restaurants that offer this experience, Stein said, giving the example of Red Lobster, won’t come to Mount Vernon because the area doesn’t match criteria that these restaurants have. He hopes that Stein Brewing Co. will break the “stigma” that Coshocton Avenue is the only place to go for a meal and noted that he feels downtown Mount Vernon, with its food options, entertainment options and stores is one of the nicest downtowns in Ohio. The brewery, Stein hoped, will be a driving force to get more people, both residents and visitors, into the downtown area.
“We’re happy that we are very close to being able to open,” Stein said. “We believe that we’re building something for the downtown Mount Vernon area to be proud of.”
Stein Brewing Co. will also bring in 50-70 new jobs to the area, Stein said. The restaurant taproom combo recently received a $450,000 loan that he feels will help him offer more to those who work for him including higher than normal wages and health insurance packages. The loan was provided to Stein from a grant funded by JobsOhio awarded to Knox County. Stein called the grant a trailblazing achievement that he was proud to have helped with, and explained that the money from the loan, once repaid, will remain in the county to be used by other small businesses.
Looking forward, after “at least a year” of rest, Stein said he hopes to grow SBC beyond Mount Vernon, aiming to make Stein Brewing Company into a franchise.