By Brandon Martin
A craft brewery could be coming to Martinsville following the city Housing Authority’s decision to provide Alley Jones Hospitality Consulting an exclusive 120-day option to develop plans for the project.
Following a restaurant hospitality study, developers Jason Alley and Michele Jones, of Richmond, are eyeing the building at 62 Fayette Street as the location for the brewery.
“That letter of intent, at this point, is to provide an exclusive 120-day option to Jones Alley Consulting to look at the building, do due diligence related to a project, put the numbers together to make sure they can develop a project,” said City Manager Leon Towarnicki. “Assuming that works out, we would come back at a later date with a lease purchase agreement for the Housing Authority to review and approve.”
Alley said the consulting duo has owned restaurants in Richmond for the last 20 years, including a large-scale production brewery complete with an arcade and full restaurant component called Bingo Beer Company.
“We felt that this was a city that can support some very interesting concepts. The one that really seemed to stick was of a brewery tasting room,” Alley said.
He explained that the ground level of the brewery would be “a cool family-friendly burger concept that we have been referring to as a burgerette.” Essentially, it would function like an “old school, flat-top lunch counter burger joint,” sourced with local products and the ability to offer vegetarian and vegan options.
“The rest of the space would be converted into seating, a tasting room, a bar, but also an entertainment venue,” Alley said. “So, an opportunity to maybe get some of the bands that were coming through” before the Rives Theater burned down last year.
Council Member Danny Turner noted the need for a new local music venue.
“The event part of it is really exciting and the proximity to the Baldwin block with the June German Ball,” Turner said. “The mural is right across the street and with Rooster Walk having lost their venue with the fire, this could be the type of thing to rival even the Harvester in Rocky Mount.”
Alley hopes to piggyback on the success of other nearby venues, such as The Harvester.
“We love that facility and it’s extremely exciting to see what they have been able to do there,” he said. “We are hoping that we will be able to leverage some of those acts as well. What we’ve seen with booking agents is people are happy to make that extra stop.”
In addition to the music venue, Alley said the brewery will also feature “pinball machines, some large family-friendly games, and then there is that outdoor parcel as well. Our intention with that is to turn it into a robust park-like atmosphere so that when people come to visit or when they have family in town, they can come and stay outdoors enjoying great food, good local craft beer, and non-alcoholic beverages as well.”
Jones noted the inclusivity of the new business, and said it would be “as kid friendly as it is adult friendly. Something for everyone.”
“The way that you guys talk about the inclusiveness that you guys want to provide really makes me want to support the project even more than I already do. Who doesn’t want a brewery in their city,” Council Member Jennifer Bowles said.
“We have some individuals in our area that may have never experienced a brewery,” Bowles said, noting the novelty of a brewery in the area. “For that to come to our area, and for our children to see that, maybe they will want to grow up and be restaurant connoisseurs and things of that nature. I think it is great for our area and I’m excited to go.”
Alley said community support is also important to the project.
“You have a history of working with the people that actually live in that area (where the businesses are located),” said Vice-Mayor Chad Martin. “I thought it was cool that you have that history of doing that, especially since that area (Fayette Street) is traditionally African American, and you are willing to make sure that is preserved and that history is brought out. I just love it.”
“The best way to be part of the community is to embrace what is already there and not come in and try to change anything,” Jones said. “We want to add to it so that is exciting for us too.”
Alley hinted at plans for future expansion as well.
“We are hoping to grow into a full-scale production and distribution brewery. That is what we are intending for that basement level,” he said, adding that the city has an “amazing proximity for distribution. We really feel like we can do some real strong work with that.”
Turner said materials for full-scale production can be found locally.
“Which is incredible on a lot of levels,” Alley said. “We believe in supporting locals and we believe that means really big purchases as well as really small purchases.”
Having the local options means “we don’t have to worry about it being on a shipping container from China for four months,” Alley said.
“We can actually talk to the people who are going to build it,” he added. “We can even have the person that is going to build our equipment, look at the space where it is going to go. These are the kind of things that are incredibly valuable to us.”
In other matters, the council:
*Adopted on second reading, Ordinance 2020-5 allowing law enforcement to discharge firearms in the city to kill coyotes.
*Adopted on first reading, Ordinance 2020-6, adding Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court to Section 1-16 of the city code regarding charging $20 for courthouse security fees.
*Heard information related to the 2021 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) list.
*Heard information related to the City proposed 2021 Legislative Agenda.
*Cancelled their November 24 meeting before Thanksgiving with the option of calling a special meeting on the day if the need arises.
*Heard plans for this year’s Christmas Parade set for December 4. The public won’t line the streets for the parade this year but floats and displays can be viewed virtually, according to Mayor Kathy Lawson.
*Heard from City Attorney Eric Monday about his appointment to the American Revolution 250 Commission. The purpose of the commission is to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution, the Revolutionary War, and the independence of the United States.