SOUTH LOOP — A microbrewery and tap room set to open at 1454 S. Michigan Ave. is raising some eyebrows about how well it will pair with its upstairs neighbor, the Sod Room, a kid-centric play place.
Brewery co-owner Curtis Tarver said he understands. His wife has taken their 10-month-old daughter to the second-floor play room, and they plan to continue to do so even after the Vice District Brewing Co. and tap room opens in June.
"There's been a couple people who made some negative comments that we're pretty much idiots for setting up a brewery below a kids area," said Tarver. But "certainly we're not going to have people down there drinking eight beers, grabbing their kids and getting in a car."
The tap room will include a microbrewery and have 10 house-made beers on tap. Tarver and his longtime Kenwood neighbor Quintin Cole decided to open a tap room to indulge their homebrewing hobby after their wives gave them an ultimatum.
"Pretty much both of our entire basements are taken up with something related to beer," Tarver joked. "Basically, our wives said it was time to put up or shut up, so that was the impetus for us to open a microbrewery."
After shopping for a storefront for months, Tarver and Cole settled on the ground-level space in the historic Buick building, which had the 14-foot ceilings they needed for their brewing equipment and a "small, quaint" feel.
The 2,200-square-foot location will house huge tanks that brew 1,724 pints of beer at a time, leaving seating room for 100 to 115 people in the front half, Tarver said. They don't plan to operate a kitchen, but instead encourage visitors to order delivery or bring carryout to eat at the tap room's long, communal tables.
Cynthia Valenciana, who owns and operates the Sod Room upstairs, said she's heard a few concerns from parents worried that the tap room would bring "garbage and rowdy behavior" to the area, but said most of her South Loop customers are excited to see a new business open. Her spot is not a day care but an indoor play area that offers toys, books and other features and can also be rented for parties or private events.
"I think that there will be very limited overlapping of business hours," Valenciana said. "We tend to keep daytime hours, and I'm assuming as a tap room that their busy time will be in the evening. I don't think there will be much of a problem there. And we're pretty loud upstairs, so we may be rowdier than they would be. But I don't foresee it being a problem."
"It's nice to have a neighbor down there," she said of the formerly vacant space below the Sod Room. "Regardless of the type of business, we would have high hopes that, as a neighbor, we have someone who's respectful of our patrons and believes in the community."
Valenciana met with Tarver and Cole a few weeks ago, and said their goals for the South Loop community seem complementary.
"The majority of people are excited, like we are, to see growth in the community, and just see another option in terms of entertainment opening up," she said.
Opening a small, family-run business in the neighborhood "requires a lot of passion and commitment, so I think that speaks to their business ideals."
Tarver said construction on the space will last for seven to 10 weeks, and Vice District hopes to open its tap room by June. He said he's "very very confident we'll be open by July."
Tarver said the duo have secured a brewmaster from Columbus, Ohio, to oversee operations. They plan to announce his name later.