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City considers support for microbrewery

SOLON– It’s not a done deal.
But the City of Solon is considering a package of financial incentives which could result in the demolition of a downtown business to make way for a new microbrewery.
At last Wednesday’s Solon City Council meeting, Solon Mayor Cami Rasmussen confirmed tentative plans to work with the owners of Red’s Alehouse in North Liberty regarding a proposal to tear down the current location of Joensy’s Restaurant and replace it with a new structure.
The city was approached about the possible project in June by Faye Swift, former owner of Slugger’s in Coralville and the current owner of Red’s Alehouse, Rasmussen said subsequent to the meeting.
Since then, a committee consisting of Rasmussen, city administrator Cassandra Lippincott and council members Ron Herdliska and Brad Kunkel has been meeting to discuss options for city involvement.
The committee met with Red’s co-owner Matt Swift July 24, and learned that early plans call for a microbrewery and eatery with a fresh, locally grown menu, Rasmussen noted.
Matt Swift said Monday he has had the project in the back of his mind since Red’s Alehouse opened in 2009. “We’re really excited to become a part of the Solon family,” he said.
Although plans are still tentative, he said he is “pretty committed” to the location and continues to plan for an opening with a year.
Swift indicated the brewmaster for the new business has already been working to develop test beers. “We’re just developing the basic concept now,” he reported.
The new microbrewery will cover the basics, he noted, but will eventually focus on more high-end, handcrafted beers. “The goal is to create world-class beer,” Matt said.
Some of that will come through personal preferences, but some will depend on Solon’s water supply. “Figuring out the water science is one of the hardest parts,” he added, noting the hardness of the water impacts the performance of the yeast.
The menu also is a work in progress, Matt said. The food selection will kept smaller and is expected to complement what’s on tap. “We don’t want it too complicated,” he observed. “My goal is that people will say they came for the beer, but the food was amazing.”
For a long time, he said, it was difficult to find a location that wasn’t too big or too small.
The Solon site seems to be a perfect fit, and Swift said he hopes it develops into a destination that draws people from all over to the community.
“We really want it to be something Solon can be proud of,” he said.
At last week’s council meeting, a Sept. 5 public hearing date was set for an amendment to the city’s urban renewal plan, the first official step to pave the way for a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) bond.
That bond could be utilized to provide financial incentives for the new business, and Mayor Rasmussen indicated the city’s committee has discussed providing assistance toward the purchase of land and construction, but is not ready to make a formal recommendation.