Stone Brewing nears decision on East Coast brewery project; is Cincinnati still an option?

Craft brewer promises decision in 30-90 days

CINCINNATI - Stone Brewing Co. is within a few months of announcing a location for its East Coast brewery project, but it’s no longer confirming that Cincinnati is in the running for the $31 million development.

“We aren’t disclosing any information on the sites we are still considering,” said spokeswoman Sabrina LoPiccolo. “We will be making a decision as soon as 30 to 60 days, 90 days at most.”

The popular San Diego craft brewery published a request for proposals (RFP) this year, inviting developers all over the country to offer sites for a brewery that would employ 374 people within five years and operate as a tourist attraction with a restaurant and brewery tours attracting craft beer enthusiasts.

It would be modeled on its original brewery in Escondido, Calif., which draws 600,000 visitors a year, including 60,000 for the brewery tour and others for its 23,500-square-foot restaurant.

LoPiccolo confirmed in May that Cincinnati was among the cities it was considering. Since then, media reports have indicated Stone Brewery was also looking at Columbus, Greenville, S.C., Greensboro and Charlotte in North Carolina and the Virginia cities of Norfolk and Richmond.

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman reportedly traveled to San Diego to court the brewery project .

Stone Brewing fans in Norfolk started a Facebook campaign to promote the idea.

“Norfolk approved construction of a new pump station (crucial to a brewery) on the Lake Wright property where Simon will be their partners in an upscale outlet mall,” one follower wrote this week. “Last night Norfolk city council rezoned the property for a brewery/microbrewery/brewpub.”

The owner of the former Jim Beam packaging plant in Carthage said Stone Brewing representatives toured his 12-acre facility on Paddock Road several weeks ago.

"They liked it, but it's not a cool location,” said Edward Paul, a real estate investor and former owner of Queen City Barrel Co. “You'd have to wipe out from the car lot all the way to where Jim Beam starts to do that. I don't think the city's got the money for that."

Paul said Stone Brewing also toured the city’s MetroWest site, an 18-acre property in Lower Price Hill where Paul operated a barrel processing and storage facility. The city spent the last seven years removing contaminated soil from the industrial site and is now trying to attract office, warehouse and light industrial tenants to the property.

MetroWest fits the Stone Brewing search criteria in a couple of important respects. There is plenty of room for a 130,000-square-foot building (expandable to 220,000 square feet) to house brewing, packaging and distribution facilities. Plus, the city is offering plentiful water and reduced sewer discharge rates to potential tenants at MetroWest. Stone Brewing would be a heavy water user. Its RFP indicates up to 225,000 gallons a day would be needed and its wastewater discharge would be up to 100,000 gallons daily.

Still, Paul said Stone Brewing seemed more interested in a site on High Street in Columbus. And another local real estate source said Stone Brewing is leaning toward "a free site" in Norfolk.

A spokeswoman for the city of Norfolk confirmed that it submitted a proposal to Stone Brewing, but wouldn't say whether it's close to landing the project.

"Norfolk is well positioned for any brewery," said Lori Crouch, Norfolk public relations manager. "Our transportation infrastructure network can move product to 100 million U.S. consumers in one day."

Officials with the Regional Economic Development Initiative, or REDI Cincinnati, declined to comment. REDI is the local marketing arm for JobsOhio, the state’s lead economic development agency.

“We don’t comment on what might be in our project pipeline until a company is at an announceable stage,” said REDI spokesman Lance Barry.

Stone Brewing provided the following detail in its RFP:

  • Initial capital spending will reach $20 million, rising to $31 million within five years of construction.
  • Company payroll would climb to $14.5 million within five years, which translates to an average salary for employees of $38,708.
  • Production will start at 120,000 and climb to nearly 500,000 barrels within five years.
  • Revenue from the facility is projected to reach $100 million within five years and “grow over time into hundreds of millions annually.”
  • The brewery would try to source all materials locally and launch “student internships and potential lab/research initiatives” with universities in whatever town wins the site search.

“Our selection of a location will be based upon a number of factors,” said the RFP, including “advantageous operational expenses (e.g., labor, utilities, logistics, etc.), development challenges, availability/ timing, unique attributes

(e.g., redeveloped or historic properties, sustainable sites), creativity as well as a significant weighting on incentive/development packages available.”

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