Brewer seeks to raze house to expand beer garden

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WESTBROOK — One of the newest businesses in the city is looking to demolish one of the oldest houses for an expansion project.

The Planning Board will hear details June 5 about Mast Landing Brewing Company’s plans to raze a single-family home at 15 Mechanic St. so it can expand its outdoor beer garden and allow food trucks to set up shop there.

“The growth of Mast Landing Brewing is unlike anything I have seen in terms of a small-scale operation rocketed to success,” Jim Fisher, president of Northeast Civil Solutions, who is helping Mast Landing through the permitting process, said at a Planning Board meeting last week.

“It has become so successful, patrons have asked if more space is available,” he added.

The 984-square-foot Mechanic Street house, which abuts Mast Landing’s outdoor beer garden and is owned by Mast Landing’s landlords, was built in 1900. Fisher said it is vacant and “needs to come down.”

City Planner Jennie Franceschi said because the house is located in the Village Review Overlay District, the Planning Board must give permission for it to be demolished. Franceschi expects the Planning Board to take up that topic as part of its next review of the proposal at its June 5 meeting.

“The intent is to be able to provide a great outdoor space for our patrons to come try our various beers as well as the various culinary offerings from local food trucks,” said Mast Landing Brewing Company co-founder Ian Dorsey.

In order to accommodate a food truck next to the beer garden, the sidewalk in front of the Mechanic Street house needs to be replaced using cement so the truck could drive over it to enter and exit the garden. It is illegal throughout the city to drive on, or over sidewalks, and the plan would need the approval of City Engineer Eric Dudley.

Food trucks have previously set up shop in Mast Landing’s parking lot. That location was not optimal because it meant patrons had to leave their tables and drinks behind in order to get food, Fisher said. In addition, the food trucks have had to rely on “noisy generators,” but could use Mast Landing’s electricity if they were located in the garden.

“We have had several different food trucks come out to the brewery over the last couple years. But it has been difficult as the trucks have to park out front and out of sight of our tasting room. Because of that, the old ‘out of sight, out of mind’ adage tends to impact their sales,” Dorsey said.

“Consumers greatly value choice when they decide what beers to drink. This is why craft beer has gained so much steam recently. We feel that the same is also true when it comes to food,” he said. “We’d love to see a rotating schedule of local food trucks in the beer garden offering up their latest creations.”

Fisher said the food truck on site would be open from lunchtime to no later than 9 p.m., but in a May 11 memo to the Planning Board, Franceschi and Assistant Planner Rebecca Spitella said they would like to see the hours of operation and frequency of trips of the food truck clarified. Mast Landing is open Tuesday to Thursday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Beginning May 29, a summer schedule will be put in place and the business will be open Tuesday to Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.

“At a maximum, the (food) truck may not have operating hours outside the parameters of Mast Landing. Staff recommends this be included as a condition of approval,” they wrote.

Staff would also like to ensure exhaust and drainage from the truck is not directed to either of the abutting properties.

To a question from Planning Board member Dennis Isherwood, Fisher said the project will not allow Mast Landing to allow more people on site, but rather gives them more space, and a food option, while outside. In order to make sure patrons stay on the property with their drinks, a fence will be extended toward Mechanic Street and a gate, or rope would be placed at the front of the house lot that would allow the food truck in and out, but only be used as an emergency exit for patrons.

“I would favor a gate rather than a rope,” Vice Chairman Rene Daniel said at the May 15 workshop on Mast Landing’s plan. “A rope stops nothing.”

Once the house is cleared, the lot will be re-landscaped with two maple trees and four wood barrels with perennials along Mechanic Street. A more detailed landscaping, lighting and site plan will be presented to the board June 5.

Franceschi said although the property is part of a contract zone, because there is no changes to the contract zone agreement, final approval of the project will come from the board, not the City Council.

“Our hope is that we will be granted approval for the project at the next Planning Board meeting so that we can have the beer garden open for use this summer,” Dorsey said.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 781-3661 x 125 or mkelley@keepmecurrent.com or on Twitter @mkelleynews

Owners of Mast Landing Brewing Company are seeking demolition permit to tear down this vacant house at 15 Mechanic St. so it can expand its outdoor beer garden. The plan will be before the Planning Board June 5.

The Westbrook Planning Board next month will review a proposal from Mast Landing Brewing Company to expand its outdoor beer garden to offer more space for patrons and allow a food truck to sell food during operating hours.

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