Longtime night spot could find new life as craft brewery

Longtime night spot could find new life as craft brewery
In deplorable condition, a portion of the Fat Kat Night Club building on Edgewood Avenue is being considered for a craft brewery with onsite sales and service.

For at least 30 of a 75-year history, the concrete block and stucco single-story adjoining buildings at Edgewood Avenue in Murray Hill have had an unsavory and sometimes notorious reputation, but now there may be new life “brewing” for what once housed a nightclub.

An application was filed Oct. 12, 2017 with the City of Jacksonville by Broc Flores, owner of Fishweir Brewing Company, to rezone a portion of the property from CCG-1 to PUD in order to allow for the use of a brewery onsite, along with the sale and service of beer/wine for onsite or off-site consumption.

A dentist on active duty at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Flores, 32, said he began brewing while in college earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry, then got serious about home-brewing in 2009.

Now the Fishweir Park resident’s sights are set on a significantly larger operation. The nearly 6,000-square-foot space, located at 1183 Edgewood Ave. South next to B Street Eats, will provide manufacturing space as well as retail sales and service.

“We [Flores and his wife, Stacy Branham] didn’t know about the property’s infamous past when we first found it…we weren’t here when all that happened,” he said.

Flores was transferred from NAS San Diego a year and a half ago. The couple bought a home bordering Fishweir Park, and Flores built a garage in the backyard that became his first brewing space. “My wife jokes the first tap room was in the park,” said Flores, hence the name Fishweir Brewing Company.

“I have always wanted to open a brewery, it’s always been a dream of mine,” said Flores, whose five-year stint with the Navy is up early in 2018. “I was planning on staying in the Navy but decided to try the brewery.”

Poor building conditions present hurdles

For the past four years, since February 2014 when a shooting at Fat Kat Night Club left one dead and three injured, the site at 1183-1187 Edgewood Ave. has been shuttered and unsightly. Graffiti mars the plywood covering windows and, in September 2016, the City’s Municipal Code Compliance Division had deemed the 1187 address an unsafe structure.

Although supposedly put on a demolition bid list in October 2016, the building remained an eyesore on a Murry Hill block that has seen new businesses opening at a good clip in the past three years.

The building is owned by John B. Kowkabany, who has a liquor license for the property. On Dec. 7, 2017, the Municipal Code Compliance Division cited the portion located at 1187 Edgewood Ave. as an “unsecured vacant building or dwelling.”

The roof had collapsed in that half of the building, but according to Flores, Kowkabany is trying to bring it back up to code. “He’s dedicated, he wants to make it happen,” Flores said. “The first step is getting us into the building, and his goal is to get another business into the adjacent building.”

Details on Flores’ application are sparse, although it did indicate a one-year construction schedule after approval of the application by City Council and the Land Use and Zoning Committee. He is working with a San Diego architect that has a lot of experience in designing breweries, and has engaged with a local attorney to handle the application approvals.

“There are some hurdles to overcome with the space first,” said Flores. “There’s always a potential it won’t work in that location. We’re staying positive.”

The application also states while “no [minimum] parking is required under the Zoning Code…the PUD requires two parking spaces for employees in the rear of the property.” The building has seven street spots and there are five more available in a sharing agreement with Maple Street Biscuit Company, which anchors the north end of the block.

Flores is also asking for a relaxation of the minimum distance requirements, noting other bars and restaurants in the same vicinity have a variance. Although not within line of sight, Edgewood Avenue Christian Church is within 1,500 feet of the proposed PUD.

As of press time, the application had not been added to the agenda for Land Use and Zoning or City Council, but Flores is hopeful it will be reviewed early this year.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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