Oklahoma City-based COOP Ale Works today announced a $20 million project to revitalize the 23rd Street National Guard Armory and transform the vacated 87,000 sq. ft. space into a manufacturing brewery, restaurant, event space and boutique hotel.
Following a 9-month request-for-proposal process, the state’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services awarded COOP the 83-year-old art deco building, which was once headquarters for the 45th Division Infantry but was shuttered in 2010. The purchase price of the building is $600,000.
Speaking to Brewbound, COOP director of sales and marketing Sean Mossman said the company will finance the project through a combination of cash, historical preservation tax credits and bank debt. He added that attorneys will now work to finalize the purchase agreement, which should be completed no later than September 1.
“We’re really master-planning a four-block area there with the state,” Mossman said.
According to Mossman, revitalizing the Armory gives the company an opportunity to “cement” its position in the Oklahoma market, “create an iconic presence” in the capital city between the state capitol building and the Uptown district.
“Our goal is not to be New Belgium to the rest of the world; our goal is to be COOP to Oklahoma,” he said.
Starting in September, COOP will begin gutting the interior of the building as it begins to transform the space into a 60-barrel production facility with a full-service restaurant and a 22-suite hotel. Mossman said the company is eyeing a September 2020 grand opening.
COOP is on track to produce about 18,000 barrels of beer in 2018, and the company expects to butt up against its 40,000-barrel capacity within the next two years, Mossman said.
“We knew we were going to grow out of that space, and we were going to have to be in a new space by 2020, 2021 at the latest,” he said. “This opportunity when it presented itself to us made a lot of sense to us.”
In addition to increasing its capacity, the larger space will enable COOP to expand its barrel-aging and sour beer programs, Mossman said. By the time the new facility is fully operational, the company projects it will have added about 90 workers to an existing team of 26 full-time and six part-time employees.
In the meantime, COOP will maintain its current production facility — about 20 minutes southwest of the Armory site. However, Mossman said the company plans to sell its existing equipment, including a 30-barrel brewhouse, once it moves into the new facility.
Despite craft beer category growth slowing and competition increasing among craft breweries in recent years, Mossman said COOP is betting on itself due to changes in Oklahoma’s laws that will take effect in October and allow grocery and convenience stores to begin selling full-strength beer. He added that COOP’s beer is currently sold in about 700 liquor stores, but the company will gain access to about 4,400 additional retailers beginning in October.
“We’ve gotten some pretty major commitments from the biggest convenience store chains and the biggest grocery store chains,” he said. “We see what’s on the horizon for us, and it’s a daunting task for the back of the house guys who have to brew and package this stuff, but we’ll be ready to go.”
COOP’s flagship F5 IPA now accounts for about 60 percent of its sales, Mossman said.
Mossman added that including a restaurant, hotel and event space in the project should help shield the company if the state’s craft beer market begins to flatten out.
“We’re building a model here with four different revenue streams,” he said. “And I think that kind of insulates us a little bit from just simply opening a massive, expensive production brewery.”
As part of the changes to state law, Oklahoma will become a franchise distribution state, moving away from the current system in which suppliers were required to sell their products to all Class B wholesalers. In anticipation of the change, COOP recently inked a deal with Republic National Distributing Company for statewide distribution.
COOP — which currently ships beer to Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas and Texas — will also consider expanding distribution to states such as Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, New Mexico and Arizona once the new brewery comes online.
“We think having the showpiece brewery in Oklahoma is going to help us out in those states that are in these concentric circles around Oklahoma,” Mossman said.