EAST VILLAGE — An influential neighborhood group voted Monday to support a plan that would allow botanical craft brewery and taproom Forbidden Root to open along a dry stretch of Chicago Avenue.
The East Village Association voted 24-11 in support of Forbidden Root's proposal to open in an old movie theater at 1746 W. Chicago Ave., which would require a zoning change that would allow the business to manufacture beer as well as lifting a liquor ban along Chicago Avenue from Ashland Avenue to Wood Street.
Emily Morris discusses the association's support of Forbidden Root on DNAinfo Radio:
The vote was taken during a packed meeting at Happy Village, 1059 N. Wolcott Ave., after months of discussion and a number concessions by Forbidden Root.
Neal McKnight, who heads the association, said he thought the vote swung in favor of the beermakers because of their "willingness to compromise and engage the neighborhood."
Forbidden Root, which specializes in creating beer from botanical ingredients such as herbs, spices, honey and more, agreed to a type of zoning that requires a detailed project description.
Owner Robert Finkel and brewer BJ Pichman also pledged to seek removal of a tavern moratorium but not attempt to lift the ban on packaged alcoholic goods, a late-night liquor license or the patio liquor moratorium until at least March 1, 2015, among other agreements.
A few details of their proposal are available in an online note written to the neighborhood group.
The business has already received support from the West Town Chamber of Commerce and a number of residents, but now it's up to Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) and the rest of City Council to ultimately decide if the company can move forward in East Village.
The association along with other neighbors had expressed worries that the brewery would create noise, bring in loading trucks that might try to go through residential streets, produce odd smells and encourage other liquor companies to move in.
Moreno had promised the group a year ago that he would not support any more liquor establishments until February 2015, the end of his current term. A big concern of the group was letting Moreno out of that agreement, even if it would only apply to that stretch of Chicago Avenue.
"Our board members were concerned this decision would be interpreted as a lack of respect for EVA's commitment to a long-standing position on liquor licenses, or that the decision was made out of political expediency," McKnight wrote in a note to the group. "However, these concerns were outweighed by our desire to be representative."
Forbidden Root's facility plans to produce 9,000 barrels each year in a portion of the 7,000-square-foot building, and its taproom would accommodate up to 150 people, according to the startup's plan of operations. Sales of packaged beer would be limited to only Forbidden Root varieties.
Main production of the beer to be eventually sold in stores would happen off-site, said Rolando Acosta, Forbidden Root's lawyer.
Neighbor Mike Schneider supported the plan.
"It would be good for the neighborhood," said Schneider, 32, who bought a house about a year ago with wife Jamie Schneider near the proposed site.
The two lamented a lack of things to do in their area and said the brewery would help make their block a place people want to visit.
"It's a lot of empty buildings," said Jamie Schneider, 29.
Finkel said he picked the area for his business especially because it wasn't filled with restaurants or chains.
"We wanted to be important for a specific neighborhood," he said.
View Forbidden Root's plan: