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Begyle Brewing Wants a Taproom and Food Trucks, But Neighbors are Wary

By Patty Wetli | October 8, 2014 5:48am
 Begyle Brewing's plans for a 30-seat taproom would only make a difficult parking situation worse, neighbors say.
Begyle Brewing's plans for a 30-seat taproom would only make a difficult parking situation worse, neighbors say.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

RAVENSWOOD — The good news for craft beer connoisseurs: Begyle Brewing is proposing to add a taproom to its existing retail operation, allowing customers to stick around and savor a pint or two after picking up a growler.

The bad news for some neighbors of the brewery: Begyle Brewing is proposing to add a taproom to its existing retail operations, allowing customers to stick around and savor a pint or two after picking up a growler.

What's the big deal? Patty Wetli explains:

Begyle Brewing may be one of the darlings of Chicago's homegrown craft beer scene, but its Ravenswood  neighbors say the brewery's plan for a 30-seat taproom will create more competition for already scarce parking spaces, along with the potential for increased litter, loud music and public drunkenness.

The last is a particular concern given the "30 kids under the age of 10" who live on the block, according to several residents.

The issues were raised Monday night during a community meeting held at the brewery, 1800 W. Cuyler Ave., where Begyle's owners outlined their intentions.

Begyle has a liquor license to sell packaged goods, i.e., growlers, bottles and cans. Operation of a taproom — serving pints and flights to be consumed on the premises — would require a separate incidental liquor license, which triggered the public forum.

"We all said to each other, 'We don't want to run a bar,'" said Brendan Blume, who owns the brewery with Kevin Cary and Matt Ritchey.

"It was community members who said, 'It would be nice to sit down and have a pint,'" Blume said.

To clarify, a taproom is not the same as a bar, Cary added.

"There's no liquor, there's no wine. Just beer. Beer that's made on site," he said.

Drafts would be available in 16-, 12- and 4-ounce pours — customers would not be able to crack open their growler or six-pack in the taproom, Cary said.

Hours would be similar to the retail store's, with 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays the latest closing time (translating into a 9:30 p.m. last call).

Begyle would not be running a kitchen, though patrons could bring their own food. The brewery also plans to host food trucks, knocking out a portion of a wall along Ravenswood to accommodate vehicles, Cary said.

When the floor was opened up for comment, "Where will the 30 people park?" was the first question posed.

Neighbors said commuters already snap up spots on Cuyler during the week before jumping on Brown Line trains at the Irving Park station, and churchgoers likewise clog the street on weekends, leaving residents high and dry.

Jim Poole, chief of staff for Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), attempted to refocus the conversation on Begyle's liquor license application, but residents said they weren't prepared to throw their support behind the taproom without first knowing that the parking situation had been resolved.

 "What can you offer us?" asked Tom Okon, an area block captain.

Poole responded that existing permit parking hours could be extended and that he would investigate additional measures available via the city's Transportation Department.

Cary said Begyle is working with the Ravenswood Community Council to have three bike racks installed at the brewery and would encourage customers to bike, walk or take the train. Begyle's five employees all walk or bike to work, he added.

Cary also said the brewery would assign an employee to monitor litter, particularly in the form of food truck wrappers, and is training all staff members to recognize customers who shouldn't be served.

"It comes down to vigilance," he said. "We want to do the right thing."

Aside from those individuals most vocal about parking, many other community members expressed approval for the taproom and of Begyle in general.

Karen Ami, executive director of the Chicago Mosaic School, which is a tenant in the same building as the brewery, spoke up on Begyle's behalf.

"The building has been cleaner, it's safer around here because you guys are watching out on the ground floor," she said.

Okon, the block captain, acknowledged that the Begyle team "had all the right answers."

To date, he conceded, he has "not seen any impact negatively" from the brewery.

"The issue has always been parking," he said.

The 47th Ward office is soliciting comments on the taproom proposal, both for and against, through Oct. 17 via email to jim@chicago47.org.

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