Note: This story was published on Oct. 11, 2016.
Blue Point Brewing Company has its village approvals in place for an expected move to the 110,000-square-foot building being vacated by Briarcliffe College in Patchogue.
The Patchogue Village Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a negative declaration under the state’s environmental review process, which means there’s no substantial evidence the project would have a significant effect on the environment.
The board then unanimously approved Blue Point’s application for a special permit to use a portion of the building for retail uses in the industrial zone.
The rest would be used for brewing and shipping beer.
“Hopefully you’ve gotten the sense that we’re very excited about this project and we’ll do what we can do to help this process along as quickly as we can,” Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri told the Blue Point representatives who were in attendance Tuesday night in Village Hall.
Among them was Blue Point president Todd Ahsmann, who noted after the meeting that the company and the landowners still haven’t agreed yet on the terms of a lease.
But that’s all that needs to get done now to make the project happen.
The brick building, which also houses Flo’s Luncheonette and Mr. D’s Ultimate Fitness — both of which would have to move — is owned by Swezey Real Estate Development.
It sits on the same property of Patchogue’s historic lace mill, and before Briarcliffe was the flagship location of Swezey’s department stores.
The store closed in 2003, and with it the village lost some 250 jobs, according to a New York Times report from that time.
David Knapp of Swezey Real Estate had previously told greaterpatchogue.com the property owners had been actively marketing the building since Briarcliffe announced its intentions to “teach out” the remainder of its current enrollees before closing in December 2018.
He said Briarcliffe is actually encumbered by its lease until early 2019.
Ahsmann also spoke publicly about Blue Point’s big plans for West Main Street for the first time Monday night.
“I’m here to describe to you what our vision is,” he said. “We consider ourselves a craft brewery. As the mayor pointed out, this is a property that has a manufacturing history, and craft is manufacturing. We’re very proud of that. We consider our brewers artists.
“So what that means is we want to involve the consumer in what’s going on. So when we build an experiential space, we want people to be able to see it, to smell it, to watch them making it. We want the artists to be seen in action.”
That means the facility, will offer educational tours, retail products, on-site tastings and sales for off-site consumption, as well as a restaurant component.
“We want [visitors] to stick around a bit longer,” Ahsmann said. “We’re still working out the details, but part of the craft beer movement is pairing beer with food; it’s part of the interactive experience.”
“It’s all just really hands on and for people to be able to go home and tell a story to friends,” he added.
Blue Point Brewery was established in a shipyard at its current River Avenue location in 1998 and was purchased in 2014 by Anheuser-Busch InBev, the brewers of Bud and Bud Light.
“Blue point has been such an asset to this community,” Pontieri said, also making reference to the brewery’s new Pride of Patchogue campaign. “It’s brought us notoriety on a different level.
Reflecting on the possible move to West Main Street, and the excitement surrounding it, Pontieri noted that in April he had asked Blue Point to take a look at the Briarcliffe building as an alternative to River Avenue expansion plans.
The mayor said he had likened the River Avenue plans to pouring 16 ounces of beer into a 12-ounce can, and urged Blue Point to pitch the alternative idea to parent company Anheuser-Busch.
“I just have one question,” joked village clerk Patti Seal, “once this all comes to fruition, hopefully, and you’re ready to roll, can we get the clydesdales for our Christmas parade?”
The Blue Point representatives said they could “definitely make an inquiry” into bringing the famous Budweiser horses to Patchogue.
Trustee Tom Ferb said the brewery is going to revitalize the western end of the village.
“Being across the street from this is going to be a good thing,” he said.
He noted the tourist attractions that the Guiness brewery in Ireland and the Anheuser-Busch brewery have become.
“People don’t just come there for lunch; going to those facilities is part of seeing and understanding the area; it’s a real tourist draw and another really important dimension and diversity in our economic base here and I am very excited,” Ferb said.
“I would be remiss if i didn’t mention that working with your village, your village clerk, your building department has been unbelievable,” said Blue Point attorney David Leno of Uniondale. “The level of service and attentiveness to assist a business like this to grow has been phenomenal.”
“I give this board a lot of credit,” he continued. “This project is going to be similar to what the vineyards did for the North Fork. It’s going to be a tourist destination.
“It’s going to draw people in and you’re really at the forefront of that.”