PGA: For our western NY readers…
Written by Kris Dubé, for The Fort Erie Times and The Niagara Falls Review
Fort Erie is one step closer to having its very own local beer.
Local politicians addressed an official plan and zoning by-law amendment for informational purposes at Monday’s council-in-committee meeting, to allow the Sanctuary Centre for the Arts in Ridgeway to include a ‘nano-brewery’ on site.
For over two years, the facility has served as a local venue for arts and entertainment, partnering with the Fort Erie Arts Council (FEAC). Concerts, arts exhibits, drama classes for children and much more has been offered at the site, formerly the Ridgeway Community Church.
The report heard on Monday night allows the building’s owner Jason Pizzicarola and a business partner Rod Daigle to move forward with their plans for the Brimstone Brewing Company.
The zoning by-law amendment will be considered when it is brought back to council in the near future. A small scale brewery that would operate out of the lower level in about 500 square feet in the Sanctuary’s basement, both proprietors have also applied for an outdoor patio, that would be 192 square- feet on the east side of the building, to compliment the plans at the local arts venue.
Since purchasing the former church two and a half years ago, Pizzicarola said the vision he and others shared was that it would serve as a headquarters for all things artistic in Greater Fort Erie.
“I thought Fort Erie in general needed more of an arts culture,” he said before council. ”
I felt one way to move Ridgeway forward was to create an anchor for the community,” he added.
According to the local architect who owns a number of properties in downtown Ridgeway, the Sanctuary’s partnership with the FEAC to host a variety of activities and events has proven to be a success. ”It’s been a great partnership and we’re continuing to develop and grow,” said Pizzicarola.
Ward 1 Coun. Stephen Passero asked if when the patio is erected, if it will be aesthetically pleasing for the nearby residents whose properties it would face. Pizzicarola said it is his every intention to make that the case, considering the time and money that has already been invested into the building’s interior.
“We’re not going to over-deliver on the inside and under-deliver on the patio,” he said.
Entertainment is also proposed to take place on the outdoor patio, which has been a cause of minor concern from impacted neighbours.
Pizzicarola said the patio will not be used as a stage for some of the louder musical acts that have played the Sanctuary since it opened.
Artists with acoustic guitars and other similar acts will be targeted for outdoor performances. ”We wouldn’t be doing a rock show outside,” he said.
Ward 4 Coun. John Hill, who represents the Ridgeway area commended Pizzicarola and everyone else behind the Sanctuary for its role in the arts community to date, saying that it is his belief that the nano-brewery being added to the downtown core will have positive results. ”
I think it’s another extension of what Ridgeway can offer,” said Hill.
The plan isn’t being accepted without small criticisms though. Charles Skinner from S&G Automotive, across the street from the Sanctuary said he is not opposed to the idea and in fact was rather welcoming of the proposal.
But he said parking issues need to be addressed. Whenever there is a well-attended concert or event at the Sanctuary, he says many patrons will end up parking in his lot after business hours.
This raises the issue of liability for him, since many customers drop their vehicles off after 5 p.m. for repair the next day and if someone were to back into one of them accidentally, it leaves him responsible.
On occasion, he has set up a blockade so no one can enter his property, but he doesn’t want to do that every time there is a function across the street. ”I can’t close off my parking lot every night, it’s not feasible for me to do that,” said Skinner.
Daigle is considered the brains behind the art of brewing in the partnership and he said the primary goal is to create an identifiable and local product.
“We want this to be considered a local beer, something that comes from Fort Erie,” said Daigle.
It is planned that Brimstone would be served at events held at the facility and even to other local establishments who both Pizzicarola and Daigle claim have expressed plenty of interest.