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VOL. 129 | NO. 94 | Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Brewery’s Fate Unchanged Despite Untapped’s Success

By Andy Meek

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Tennessee Brewery Untapped, the festival-like celebration that’s turned the long-vacant brewery structure Downtown into a packed community space, is now roughly halfway through its six-week run.

Tennessee Brewery Untapped is now roughly halfway through its six-week run.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

Approaching the end arguably hasn’t served to diminish the enthusiasm of the crowds that still converge on the brewery’s courtyard and connected spaces each week of Untapped.

Mother’s Day was the most recent example of the Thursday through Sunday event, and smartphones could still be seen capturing the moment and the castle-like surroundings, while attendees happily noshed on snacks from food trucks, hit up the beer garden and relaxed with friends.

On Mother’s Day, as during each Sunday of Untapped, the beer garden was used to raise money for area nonprofits.

Meanwhile, attention soon will focus, if it hasn’t already, on what comes after Untapped. Because what might not be readily apparent from the crowds and celebratory atmosphere is that an Aug. 1 deadline for the brewery’s sale still stands.

Rasberry CRE principal James Rasberry, representing the brewery’s ownership, said this week that Untapped’s success hasn’t changed the requirement that a buyer must emerge to prevent demolition of the brewery after Aug. 1.

“Unless we have a sale, we’re still going to move forward with it,” Rasberry said.

Even the project’s organizers have acknowledged that Untapped could end up serving as the final blowout before the wrecking ball. Kerry Hayes is one of those organizers, and in response to the still-unchanged deadline that will trigger the brewery’s demolition, he argued that Untapped shouldn’t necessarily be looked at as a failure if that happens.

“Success for us is changing the dialogue around when preservation is appropriate,” he said. “Success also might be several of these Untapped-style events a year happening in interesting, old properties.

“Every building is different, and every situation is different. One thing we have noticed is people coming to the brewery and saying, ‘Wow, I never knew this was here.’ That’s the shift I think is happening. Because what we have to remember is that by the time owners start talking about demolition, it’s almost too late to do something.”

Details about Untapped were first unveiled in March, during that month’s regular meeting of the South Main Association. Memphis businessman Taylor Berger presented a general sketch about what organizers wanted to do, and he said it partly was in response to the brewery owners saying in January they were considering a demolition contract for the building.

The team that lined up for the project included planners, citizens and activists. Also taking part were commercial real estate broker Andy Cates, businessmen and restaurateurs Berger and Michael Tauer and communications professional Doug Carpenter.

Then there’s the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team, which is advising the group, plus Memphis Botanic Garden and the Memphis Regional Design Center, among others.

“Some of my friends were hanging out and started thinking about how we might do something with that building – right now,” Berger told the South Main Association attendees.

Meanwhile, Untapped continues to grow its reach, with plenty of out-of-towners, including the married couple behind the travel blog Intentional Travelers, joining local residents who count themselves among the event’s fans.

The Intentional Travelers bloggers wrote on their site earlier this week about how they’d recently decided to make Memphis a stop on their road trip – but that their expectations weren’t too high. Yet they left impressed with the Bluff City, and listed what’s happening at the Tennessee Brewery as one reason why.

“We at Intentional Travelers are suckers for community-led initiatives that make something amazing out of nothing,” they wrote. “That’s why we couldn’t get enough of Tennessee Brewery Untapped.

“Some folks in Memphis got together and transformed an empty space into a truly unique venue. It’s open Thursday through Sunday with a simple bar inside, a food truck in the terrace, a few games like darts and air hockey, and plenty of open space to hang out in an unexpected setting with old friends or new acquaintances. We spent a good half hour just walking around in admiration of it all.”

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