Tennessee Brewery Supporters Still Working to Save Building

By Andy Meek

With an Aug. 1 demolition date looming, a group of Tennessee Brewery supporters is still working behind the scenes to save the historic structure from the wrecking ball.

Supporters of the Tennessee Brewery building aren’t giving up on the structure just yet.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

Restaurateur Taylor Berger, a leader of the recent “Tennessee Brewery Untapped” temporary activation project that brought thousands of people to the brewery grounds over a six-week run, said his group has applied for a temporary use permit to launch a new version of an “Untapped”-style event at the brewery.

Berger said the group has a date set for July 23 for its request to be considered by the Memphis-Shelby County Board of Adjustment.

Berger told The Daily News his group’s end game is to prevent the demolition scheduled for Aug. 1 so that another temporary activation project could be held, one that would involve the brewery backers experimenting more and building off the first event’s success. Meanwhile, they’re also still trying to find a buyer for the property who would lease it to Berger’s group, with a view toward taking everything they’ve learned about what works and what the community wants for the property and using that to open something long-term next year.

Right now, though, the brewery is still in the real estate version of purgatory – neither condemned nor saved, still awaiting final judgment.

“We’re just trying to be proactive,” Berger said about the first permit application his group filed, which was denied.

The July 23 hearing is an appeal.

“If something happens with a change of ownership or the landlord decides to delay demolition, we want to be prepared.”

The bottom line, Berger said, is that his group believes “we have a mandate from the community to try and make something happen with that building.”

Rasberry CRE principal James Rasberry, who represents the brewery’s ownership, told The Daily News Wednesday his client “is not in the beer business” and that “We’re not inclined to keep it open for a couple of thousand dollars a month so we can have a beer garden over there.”

A beer garden was one of the features of “Untapped,” in addition to food trucks and an assortment of other uses that drew the public to the grounds. Over the course of “Untapped,” the festival-like celebration brought crowds that also noshed on snacks from local vendors, relaxed with friends and marveled at the castle-like grounds around them.

“It’s still all academic to me at this point,” Rasberry said about the brewery’s possible future. “We’re interested in either passing the baton or taking the building down, unless someone comes forward with a viable option – and a beer garden is not a viable option for us.

“I’ll keep every option open that I can for as long as I can, but at some juncture it’s all over. And right now, we’ve still got an Aug. 1 date.”