Dogfish Head’s new $5 million Rehoboth Beach, Del. brewpub project cleared its final hurdle last week, earning a site plan approval from the town’s board of commissioners.
The board voted unanimously to approve a plan that will include a new restaurant, brewpub, distillery, outdoor courtyard, merchandise shop and a live music staging area.
The entire approval process, which first began back in April, took much longer than expected, however. A land-use board actually denied the company’s initial request to demolish and rebuild its 9,820 sq. ft. brewpub on grounds that the new venue would challenge a state law barring restaurants that serve alcohol from growing past 5,000 sq. ft. Dogfish had been grandfathered in past the rule but still needed to convince the city to grant the zoning approval during a second hearing, held in June.
The new “campus,” as Dogfish Head CEO Nick Benz described it, will include a second but separate restaurant inside the since shuttered Finbar’s Pub & Grille, which Dogfish Head purchased in early 2014.
“We are treating this whole project as one beautiful restaurant campus,” he said. “$4 million is being spent on a complete redo of the brewpub and another $1 million is being spent on the Finbar’s renovation.”
The company plans to “re-skin” the façade of Finbar’s and renovate the interior of that building before reopening the restaurant under a new name in November. The yet-to-be-named restaurant will feature a “spirits-first” menu and beer will play a “supporting role,” Benz said.
Construction on the new Dogfish Brewing & Eats portion of the campus will take much longer, however, and is not expected to be finished until 2017.
Rehoboth Beach, a popular tourist destination in the summer, has strict building guidelines that restrict activities to a condensed window of time, Benz said. That will slow the construction timeline and force Dogfish to contend with potentially harsh winter weather conditions, which could also hamper the buildout.
“You lose a lot of time simply because of the rules,” he said.
The construction timeline will also be extended because Dogfish will not shut down restaurant operations while building out part of the new space in an adjacent parking lot. If the company were to demolish the current building and build the entire project during a single phase, jobs and revenue would have been lost, Benz said.
“We are tackling this in a few phases and the entire thing will be completely done in mid-2017,” he said. “The building is in a state of disrepair. We’ll now be able to create a beautiful bar experience, increase the square footage of the brewing space, add some more fermenters and ramp up R&D. We are hopeful that we can get some portion of our peak summer season in 2017.”
Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats “2.0” will begin operating in the newly built space next summer, Benz said. The company will then demolish its current building and begin phase two of construction.
The entire project is expected to be complete in the third quarter of 2017.