BRISTOL, Va. — Major changes are being planned for the former Studio Brew, its new co-owner said Tuesday.
Twin City entrepreneur Allen Hurley and former coal executive Jim Bunn completed their purchase of the former brewery at 221 Moore St. late last year. The business will remain closed until they finalize the concept for its future use. The building was constructed in 1910 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Jim and I purchased the building and all the [brewing] equipment,” Hurley said. “We’re looking to find a way to maximize that to create more economic development downtown and create another spoke in the wheel.”
Erich and Pam Allen opened Studio Brew in 2016 after acquiring the former Bristol Fire Museum from the city. Studio Brew is one of three craft breweries on the Virginia side of State Street. Bristol Station Brewery and Pub also opened in 2016, and State Street Brewing opened last year.
Last fall, the Allens said they were working with an outside investor to expand product offerings. They received a release from a 2015 performance agreement with the city and BVU to get a broader reach of potential investments.
“We may still work with the Allens on the manufacturing of the beer — that’s in our plans — but Jim and I are really taking some time to meet with a couple different operators on how we can maximize that building, maybe with some of the current stuff coming into the area. We don’t want to take away from downtown, but we draw people downtown that might not come down.”
Multiple ideas are currently under consideration.
“We’re looking at a multiuse-type facility with a really nice restaurant concept, maybe even a piano bar or comedy zone on the second floor to create an entertainment destination. And even run a shuttle service downtown so if we have people who want to go to other places and eat, that’s OK. We run a service, and they come up to the comedy zone or the piano bar,” Hurley said. “We’re looking to potentially build an outdoor stage and maybe in the future build a mezzanine around the outside of the building.”
The Allens announced the sale on the brewery’s Facebook page.
“Pam and I are excited to announce we have new investors/owners. This is a great opportunity for downtown Bristol, craft beer fans and customers and our amazing staff,” Erich Allen wrote. “Pam & I want to thank everyone who [has] supported us on this incredible journey. This is going to be awesome as we enter 2020 with new craft beers with a new look and direction.”
The Allens previously told city leaders they invested $2.35 million in the business, including what Hurley describes as the “Ferrari” of brewing equipment. The facility has a 15-barrel microbrewery with 15- and 30-barrel fermenters.
“It will be nice to brew the beer for whatever concept is in there, but also private label is probably a good idea to better utilize that equipment and probably create some jobs by doing that,” Hurley said.
Whatever direction they go, Hurley said the goal is to enhance downtown.
“A lot of people have worked real hard for a long time to revitalize and make everything downtown what it is. Everything we do, from the executive office space to the restaurants like Delta Blues, is how do we create a different spoke in the wheel? If we create different spokes in the wheel, that creates opportunity for people to come downtown that may not typically visit downtown.”