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VOL. 129 | NO. 144 | Friday, July 25, 2014

Supporters Still Racing to Save Brewery

By Andy Meek

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At the conclusion of the Tennessee Brewery Untapped temporary activation project, supporters of the event were greeted June 1 with a message on the group’s Facebook page that both thanked participants and bid them farewell.

Backers of the Tennessee Brewery property haven’t lost hope that the Downtown landmark still can be saved, as supporters are still racing to keep it from demolition.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

“Folks, it has been a joy,” the message read, capping an effort to temporarily turn the historic brewery into a community gathering place and to show that redevelopment was still possible for a property that’s been unused for decades. “Untapped is officially over. Thanks for the contributions, the support, the collaboration, the belief, and the memories.”

The day after that message was posted, meanwhile, the Untapped team was already making plans to try to bring another version of the event back to the brewery. Spurred on by the six-week event’s surprise success, Untapped’s organizers emailed the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement on June 2 and also filed an application for an extension of the temporary use permit that made Untapped’s first run possible.

In other words, rather than call it a day after the bar at the brewery was closed down, the food trucks packed up and the courtyard was cleared out, Untapped’s organizers are still going in their attempts to work behind the scenes to save the historic structure from the wrecking ball.

They’re fueled in part by support for the first version of Untapped. In addition to the goal of showcasing the brewery’s redevelopment potential, organizers estimate some 30,000 people came to the brewery to take part in the event’s activities.

However, time appears to be running out if the structure is to be rescued. Demolition could begin in a matter of weeks – and this time, Untapped’s organizers may need approval from a governing body.

A few days after filing their application for an extension, the request was turned down. Allen Medlock, administrator of the code enforcement office, responded via email that while the first “special event” permit “provided a means of showing that a viable re-use of the building for future venues is possible,” issuing additional temporary permits would not meet the requirements of the Unified Development Code.

An official in the city-county Office of Planning and Development told The Daily News that Memphis Truck Stop LLC has requested a hearing from the city-county Board of Adjustment in August to appeal the denial of the temporary use permit.

In a letter to OPD at the end of June, a representative of the Untapped group wrote that “the development group that has the brewery under contract needs the temporary use of Brewery Untapped to prohibit the current property owner from demolishing the Historical Landmark and provide a time for the due diligence period.”

Memphis restaurateur Taylor Berger said in recent days that his group filed for the extension of the temporary use permit to be proactive. If something happens that involves the brewery being able to change hands or the landlord deciding to delay demolition, he said, his group wanted to be ready.

Representing the brewery’s ownership is Rasberry CRE principal James Rasberry, who also said in recent days his client wants the brewery’s fate finally settled, by “either passing the baton or taking the building down.”

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