Waco Ale Co. has plans to open a brewery and join the buzz downtown, having signed a lease on space at 806 Austin Ave., next to the Hey Sugar candy store and ice cream parlor, a local real estate agent said.
“Right now they are getting their plans solidified, and I’ve been told renovations will begin soon, possibly in July, and that an opening is planned by the end of the year,” said Hunter Harrell, with Harrell Real Estate Services, who represented landlord Brian Ginsburg in the deal.
“The tenant choosing this location proves foot traffic along Austin Avenue is improving and will continue to improve as people walk all the way from Fifth Street to 12th Street along Austin Avenue,” Harrell said in a statement.
Harrell identified the potential developer as Brett Stewart, who did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday. Waco real estate agent Gregg Glime, who is representing Stewart, declined to comment Tuesday, saying Stewart is “working through a few things,” and did not yet want to discuss the project.
He said Stewart hopes to visit downtown Waco in a week or two, “and will be happy to provide tours of the property and outline his plans.”
“I am proud to have this business in my building, along with Adorn Boutique and Hey Sugar Candy. This helps connect the flow of businesses like Coach’s Smoke on Fourth Street up to Simply Irresistible on 11th Street,” Ginsburg wrote in a statement, referencing a barbecue restaurant and a gift shop on Austin Avenue.
Harrell said the 3,770-square-foot space Waco Ale Co. proposes to renovate and occupy was targeted by a prospect hoping to place an Asian restaurant there. That deal collapsed when the prospect developed health problems, Harrell said.
“Adding a business like Waco Ale Company, a microbrewery and bar, is great for downtown Waco,” Ginsburg wrote.
He said it will fit the inner-city’s “atmosphere of shop, dine and play.”
The Dancing Bear Pub, 1117 Speight Ave., serves craft beers brewed elsewhere. Owner Paxton Dove said craft breweries “are the coming trend that is finally catching on in Waco, and I’m excited about it.”
Texas is behind most of the United States in the number of breweries operating, Dove said.
“I remember 11 years ago, people teased me about not having Budweiser,” he said, noting that appreciation for craft beers locally is evolving.
Waco’s two breweries, Brotherwell Brewing and Bare Arms Brewing “both do a good job of making good beer, and I’ve sponsored events with both and will assist with more,” Dove said.
Justin Veach, co-founder of Bare Arms Brewing at La Salle Avenue and Valley Mills Drive, said the brewery and tasting room continue to grow after three years of operation. He said Bare Arms brands now appear on H-E-B shelves, as well as those of Riverbend Liquor, Lake Shore Drive and North 19th Street.
“We have nine beers and a nonalcoholic root beer,” Veach said. “We will have 18 beers available for our third-anniversary celebration.”
He said he welcomes the arrival of Waco Ale Co.
“People will travel to sample brewhouses, and when they’re here, they will look around for places to eat and places to stay,” he said. “If they’ve sampled several establishments, they are more likely to stay the night.”
Megan Henderson, executive director of City Center Waco, which promotes downtown development, said the proliferation of craft breweries enhances the entire city’s appeal, including restaurants and taverns that stock craft beers that reflect local tastes and appeal to customers pursuing a slice of Waco life.
“They want to try things unique to Waco,” Henderson said. “And it would not surprise me if more microbreweries choose to operate in Waco, though I have no information about that I can share at this time.”
Tyler Ballard, who manages Hey Sugar, said he has heard talk of a brewery moving in next door. He likes the idea.
“More traffic, more people coming to Austin Avenue,” Ballard said.
David Stoneking, part of the Brotherwell Brewing ownership team, said the brewery on Bridge Street in East Waco will celebrate its grand opening later this month, though it already provides product to several local bars and restaurants and hopes to sign deals with more.
“We’re opening May 26, Memorial Day weekend, and we have big plans,” Stoneking said.
Plans are also in the works for a Czech restaurant and brewery at Eighth Street and Jackson Avenue.