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Long Beach zoning board approves brewery on Park Avenue

Business will occupy former Long Beach Craft & Variety space

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A new brewery is planning to open in the center of the city next year, and many say it will be a boon to the local economy when it takes over a long-vacant space on Park Avenue.

The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously on Sept. 27 to approve an off-street parking variance for Point Lookout Brewing Company LLC for a full-service bar with beer and cabaret at 50 W. Park Ave., a 5,000-square-foot space that was previously home to Long Beach Craft & Variety.

Co-owner Luke Heneghan said that plans call for a 15-barrel brewery called Bright Eye Beer Company on the ground floor of the two-story building, as well as a bar and tasting area, featuring an array of beers brewed on site.

No liquor or food will be served, though Heneghan said that plans call for partnering with local restaurants and allowing customers at the brewery to bring in food or order it from nearby eateries. The business, which Heneghan said he expects to open late next summer, would also sell its craft beer to local bars and restaurants.

“I think this is something a little bit different — we’re just focusing on beer and this community gathering space, letting people bring in food from local establishments,” said Heneghan, 27, whose family owns J.A. Heneghan’s Tavern in Point Lookout. “We’re definitely focused on well-balanced, approachable beers — we have a pretty good range, from a Kölsch to sweet stout, and a variety of pale ales and IPAs.”

City officials said that the company submitted a “strong” application to the zoning board, which typically votes a month after a hearing to discuss an application.

“The zoning board was happy to grant the variances necessary for the brewery to open,” board Chairman Rocco Morelli said in a statement after the vote. “The applicant will be repurposing a long-time vacant and historic space in the City of Long Beach by investing over $800,000 for what appears to be a gorgeous build-out. Not only will the City of Long Beach have its own brewery, [but] breweries in other locations around the country have proven to be centers of their communities and assets to the local economy.”

Other breweries — such as Long Beach Brewing Company and Barrier Brewing Co. in Oceanside — have opened over the past several years, but there are none on the barrier island. In February, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the state is now home to 400 breweries that have helped boost local economies.

In 2013, the state’s farm brewery law took effect, allowing craft breweries to use ingredients “grown in New York to conduct onsite tastings, open restaurants, engage in self-distribution and open up to five no-fee off-site branch stores anywhere in the state.”

A growth industry

“We’ve seen these brewery businesses pop up all around the U.S., and I fell in love with local Long Island craft beer at the restaurant, working with local breweries,” said Heneghan, who said he is now applying for a farm brewery license.

The name of the business, he said, pays homage to the Doxsee family, which operated one of New York state’s oldest family-owned seafood businesses.

“The Doxsee family, they owned the old fishing company in Point Lookout — the first big industry in Point Lookout was the Bright Eye Fish Company,” said Heneghan, who studied business at Notre Dame before joining the family business.

James Lynch, a member of the Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, spoke on behalf of the chamber in favor of the proposed business at last month’s zoning board meeting, saying that its business model is “unique.”

Many residents were saddened when Long Beach Craft & Variety, a staple in the city for nearly 20 years, closed in 2015. Many had called on the landlord to maintain the character of the 90-year-old building — previously a McClellans, another variety store — and did not want to see a chain store occupy the space.

At the zoning board hearing, no one spoke against the brewery coming to town. Lynch said that there is ample parking in the area, including the Long Island Rail Road lot across the street.

“The store has been empty for three years, and we were sad to see [owner Cassandra Bolivar] leave,” he said. “A place like this would not work in the West End — it works where it is because you have a number of people coming by train and a 400-spot parking garage that sits empty at night and on the weekends. They can take advantage of these things, and it will bring other businesses to Park Avenue.”

Heneghan said that the location was ideal.

“Looking at this particular area of Long Beach, it’s a transportation hub and offers easy access in terms of pedestrians, bikes, buses and trains," he said, adding that the business intends to install bike racks. “That transportation hub in the center of town is really what we wanted to tap into, and get away from drivers."

In a letter to the zoning board, chamber Chairman Ian Danby wrote that members had met with Heneghan and his business partner, Molly Allare, to discuss their plans for the business.

“We offer our full support to a business that will develop a long-time vacant storefront, become a valuable addition to the existing commerce in the neighborhood and will attract new visitors to Long Beach,” Danby wrote on behalf of the chamber. “Luke comes from a family with a great reputation in the business community and a proven track record in the hospitality industry.”

Heneghan said that he had yet to determine how much the renovations to the space would cost.

“The old variety store is an amazing space,” he said, adding that the renovations would maintain the historic look of the building, including the iconic red doors. “We heard amazing stories about how much people loved that store. We’re going to do our best to restore the wood floors, which had a lot of damage from Hurricane Sandy. We have a lot of build-out to do in terms of restoring the space and setting up the production side of the building. We have quite a bit of build-out to do.”

“With this on-site production brewery, we want the tasting and tap room to be part of the business plan, as well as the distribution of kegs locally,” he added.

Heneghan said he envisioned the space as a gathering place geared toward local residents, with communal tables, that could host an array of community events, ranging from live music to pop-up shops highlighting local artists and businesses. The business, he explained, would close at 10 p.m.

“We definitely want to do occasional live music, which we have in the pub down in Point Lookout, and we love the local Long Beach artists,” he said. “We want to create a family-friendly, community environment where people can hang out. We’re really excited, and looking forward to working with the community.”