Champaign considers microbrewery request by Blind Pig owner
CHAMPAIGN — City council members this week could pave a way for a microbrewery to open in the old Kirby's Firestone garage south of downtown Champaign if they sign off on a special permit.
The city council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.
The Twilight Lounge Inc., whose 100 percent owner Christopher Knight controls both Blind Pig locations in downtown Champaign, has applied for the permit. The city does not have rules specifically allowing for microbreweries in commercial districts, so city officials must OK the plan before it moves forward.
The city's planning and development director Bruce Knight said the microbrewery would operate under a different kind of liquor license and act more like a brewery than a bar.
Documents sent to the city council depict the building with Bling Pig Brewery logos on a sign out front and on the sides of the building.
Kirby's Firestone was in the building at 311 S. Neil St. for about 50 years and recently left the location.
Bruce Knight said it is a good fit for a microbrewery with a brewing and bottling operation in the back, where the mechanics' area had been, and a retail and maybe a tap area in front where customers can buy the alcohol.
"It's not a full-blown bar," Knight said.
With a brewers' liquor license, the business could also sell its products to other retail stores, bars and restaurants.
Under the proposal in front of the city council on Tuesday, Bruce Knight said, the brewery would be the vast majority of the business operation. In other cases where bars brew their own beer — like in the case of Blind Pig Brewery on North Neil Street — the brewery operation is a less significant portion of the overall business.
The plan commission unanimously approved the proposal in an 8-0 vote earlier this month.
"The building's been vacant for some time now," Bruce Knight said. "It's a difficult building to reuse for a lot of different kinds of uses. This seems like a perfect fit."