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Eat + Drink: Kelly's new hours, an unusual seasonal beer and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly look at epic local nomz.

Kelly’s offering lunch service
Kelly’s, the decades-old East Liberty happy hour-mainstay, is known for its cocktails, ambience and baked mac & cheese. Now, after years of catering exclusively to Pittsburgh’s nightlife, the bar and lounge has expanded its hours and is open daily at 11:30 a.m., offering full lunch service.

“We have the same menu all day long, but we’ll be running daily lunch specials as well,” says Kelly’s general manager Deirdre Durant, adding that the specials will feature pot pies made from scratch which will change week-to-week, and sandwiches, including a lamb burger with pickled red onions.

Lunch isn’t an isolated incident, either. The bar will remain open until its usual 2 a.m. daily closing with happy hour running unchanged from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

An unexpected seasonal beer
Many beer drinkers tend to prefer hoppy beers during periods of warmer weather. But as he’s wont to do with just about everything, Roundabout Brewery’s Steve Sloan has created another stellar hybrid beer which bends convention.  

Called New Zealand Summer Winter Warmer, it combines an English-style winter warmer — a strong ale with heavy and sweet malt flavors — with a generous but not overwhelming amount of New Zealand hops. After all, our winter is their summer.

The result is a balanced, seasonal ale which is likely to satiate both malt fans and hopheads — something previously not thought possible.
 
Prohibition dinner at Tender
Eighty years ago tomorrow, the United States ratified the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, repealing Prohibition. To commemorate the occasion, Tender Bar + Kitchen is celebrating with a Repeal Day dinner featuring spirits from Laird & Company, America’s oldest commercial distillery.

Tickets for the event are $65 and include a four-course meal and cocktail reception with Lisa Laird, the distillery’s ninth-generation owner. For more information or to buy tickets, check out the event page.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Deirdre Durant

ACTION Housing to redevelop long-vacant Squirrel Hill property

After sitting vacant for nearly a decade, the space that formerly housed Poli restaurant in Squirrel Hill has been acquired by ACTION-Housing and will be redeveloped into a mix of residential and office units.

After more than a year of effort, ACTION acquired the property at 5685 Forward Avenue through a sheriff’s sale in September. It will partner with Jewish Residential Services to convert the site into a multi-purpose facility after demolishing the existing structure.

“We’d build up four or five stories,” says Linda Metropulos, ACTION-Housing’s director of housing and neighborhood development. “We’d build the building as a condo, and JRS would have the ground floor. We’d have the residential space above.”

Metropulos adds that JRS would likely use its portion of the space to build out its offices and improve the Howard Levin Clubhouse — a non-profit facility assisting people affected by mental illness — which currently sits in the space adjacent to the former restaurant.

She also says that while plans are very premature, the project will cost somewhere between $12 and $15 million to complete. Though ACTION hasn’t formally enlisted an architecture firm, Metropulos said it is doing preliminary consultations with Downtown-based FortyEighty Architecture.

“We’d probably start construction at the end of 2015,” Metropulos says. “It’s a lengthy process.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Linda Metropulos

Giant Eagle looks to open grocery store Downtown

On the heels of developer Ralph Falbo’s plan to open a boutique food market and wine bar in Market Square, Giant Eagle is exploring the notion of opening a full-service grocery somewhere in Downtown Pittsburgh.

While Giant Eagle hasn’t yet chosen a site for a Downtown location, there are several it is considering.

“We have been collaborating with Giant Eagle on a feasibility study to see if Downtown is a location that would be suitable for them, and the indicators are positive,” says Leigh White of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “They’re looking at a number of sites but haven’t settled on anything.”

Downtown Pittsburgh hasn’t had a full-service grocery store since Rosebud Fine Food Market and Deli, which was located at the corner of Seventh Street and Fort Duquesne Boulevard, closed in 2010 after just two years of operation. Prior to Rosebud, Downtown’s last grocery store was The Market on Market Square, which occupied the former G.C. Murphy building on Forbes Avenue and closed its doors in 1994.

Demand for a grocery store in Downtown Pittsburgh has steadily grown over the last several years as the area’s residential population has increased. According to a report the PDP released earlier this year, about 8,000 people live in the Greater Downtown area. The same report stated that in answering an open-ended question about retail needed in Downtown, 33 percent of residents identified a grocery store as their top priority.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Leigh White

Award-winning Holiday Market returns, bigger and better

The Peoples Gas Holiday Market, which earlier this year won a Merit Award from the International Downtown Association, is back up and running in Downtown Pittsburgh’s Market Square.

“Last year, we had 12 to 15 vendors. This year, we have more than 25,” says Leigh White of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “We have six vendors who came in from overseas and from across the country.”

This year’s market boasts vendors selling holiday goods from Eastern European cultures familiar to Pittsburgh, all the way to special items from Ireland and Nepal. There’s a large tent offering traditional, handmade German decorations, a selection of trees and wreaths of various sizes and plenty to eat.

White added that in addition to adding some more international flavor to this year’s edition — which has turned Market Square into a miniature holiday village — the market has added some Pittsburgh-specific retailers to its repertoire.

Drew and Jeannine Hine’s South Side-based Vessel Studio Glass had a booth part-time at last year’s market, but is back again this year, occupying a full-time space, where they’re offering everything from intricately designed cheese knives to hand-blown tree ornaments —including a mock-up of the much-beloved rubber duck which spent three weeks in Pittsburgh waters earlier this year.

“We’re making more every night just to keep up with demand,” Jeannine Hine says.

White says the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is expecting more than 250,000 visitors to the holiday market, and that it anticipates a very positive effect on the Downtown economy. Last year, for every $100 consumers spent in the market, they spent an additional $500 in Downtown’s other businesses and restaurants.

“One of the biggest reasons we do this is that we want people to come Downtown and shop here, but also shop at the other stores and restaurants, and we’re really seeing the effects of that,” White says.

For a complete list of the market's vendors and operating hours, visit its website.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Leigh White

Eat + Drink: A heavy dose of holiday spirits and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly look at epic local nomz.

Larkin leads the way on Allegheny River Libation Trail
It seems that craft breweries, distilleries and wineries just recently started popping up in Pittsburgh.

Well don’t look now, but there are 15 such independent producers along the Allegheny River corridor alone. That’s why Bill Larkin, who with his wife, Michelle, owns and operates Arsenal Cider House in Lawrenceville, is leading the charge in establishing the Allegheny River Libation Trail.

“I pulled everybody together from a certain geographical area and we just had a meeting,” Larkin said. “I think it’s remarkable that there are so many producers in such a small area. I think it’s something that should be exploited.”

The coalition’s first order of business will be to produce a brochure, highlighting all of its members and their proximity to one another. Larkin says that since a lot of the producers already support each other— many order their ingredients together in bulk to save on shipping costs — so this kind of cross-promotion makes sense.

Of the 15 breweries, distilleries and wineries in the neighborhoods along both sides of the Allegheny — from Millvale and Lawrenceville, all the way up through the Strip District and the North Side — 13 intend to participate in what Larkin views as a loose confederation of businesses.

“I don’t think anybody wants to make this an official organization,” he says. “We’re all pretty busy, and I don’t think anyone wants that kind of commitment.”
 
Stay Tuned Distillery opens in Munhall
One distillery you won’t find on the libation trail, simply by virtue of its location, is the Stay Tuned Distillery, which opened earlier this month.

Located at 810 Ravine Street in Munhall, Stay Tuned specializes in finishing whisky and gin made from spirits distilled at the Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia. The local operation houses their rectification facilities, a retail shop and a tasting bar.

“We finish their rye and their single malt, and we make our own gin,” says co-owner LeeAnn Sommerfeld.

Though not yet available for sale, Stay Tuned’s PathoGin is made from a barley base and contains more citrus and floral flavors than most mass-market gins. Its rye and single malt whiskys will both be ready in time for the holiday shopping season.

Music at Marty's Market
The folks at Marty's Market are forever finding new ways to make use of their outstanding space. This Friday will mark the first installment of the Music at Marty's series, which will feature local Latin musician Geña. The event will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and include music, freshly prepared Latin cuisine and a Q&A with the musician. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased on the market's website.
 
Cocktail viewing party
Hey Bartender,” Douglas Tirola’s documentary examining New York City’s craft cocktail culture through the eyes of two skilled mixologists, will screen tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Downtown’s Harris Theater as a part of the Three Rivers Film Festival.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Bill Larkin, LeeAnn Sommerfeld

Aspinwall breaks ground on new riverfront park

When planning the groundbreaking for the new Aspinwall Riverfront Park, park developer Susan Crookston wasn’t aiming to create a corporate photo opportunity. She wanted to involve all the locals who’d volunteered their time and donated their money.

So when area residents gathered at the site of the future park on Saturday, anyone who wanted to help break ground had the chance.

“We didn’t want to have guys in suits standing around with shovels,” Crookston says. “Everyone got a shovel we’d painted gold and we planted 2,000 bulbs. It was great to see the kids running around, throwing dirt and eating cookies.”

It’s that kind of joy, Crookston says, which has helped get this park project moving so quickly. After finalizing designs in May, construction on the park’s west side, which will include walking trails and quiet recreation areas, will go on throughout the winter.

“We’ve had people really give in sacrificial ways. So many people have been involved in making this happen,” she says. “It takes most communities ten years to build a park, and we’re on two and well under way.”

While the first phase of construction is taking place, park leaders plan to erect a temporary ice skating rink next month and hope to have it ready for use by January. Right now, they’re seeking donations of ice skates. The park’s second phase, an active recreation space, could even begin concurrent to its first — something Crookston says is a matter of obtaining permits and the final 30 percent of the funding required.

If the local eagerness to get the park up and running is any indication, it won’t be long. At the groundbreaking, a child handed Crookston a bag containing $3.27.

“He knew he was building the park,” Crookston says. “When you think about somebody giving you what they’ve saved, that’s an important gift.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Susan Crookston

Small Business Saturday highlights local retailers

A lot has changed in Downtown Pittsburgh since Jeff Izenson’s grandfather opened Specialty Luggage in 1944.

The store has moved twice, occupying three different buildings within the same block of Liberty Avenue. It’s opened satellite locations in the Waterworks and South Hills Village. Oh, and big-box stores and the internet have completely changed the way people shop for nearly everything — including luggage — to the point where a lot of old, family-owned small businesses haven’t survived.

Three years ago, piggybacking on the growing movement encouraging local shopping, American Express created and promoted Small Business Saturday — a shopping event situated between the utter madness of Black Friday and server-crashing traffic of Cyber Monday — reminding consumers that sometimes, it’s nice to examine something before buying it. It’s been a boon to small businesses like Izenson’s, which thrive by offering a level of customer service big box stores and the Internet can’t compete with.

“We spend an inordinate amount of time training our people on how to take care of our customers,” Izenson says. “Providing a great experience is the most important thing we do every day. At the end of the day, my business exists because of a staff that cares about its customers.”

While Small Business Saturday is an American Express creation which encourages both stores and cardholders to register beforehand for certain perks and rewards, the Small Business Administration has set up guides for both shoppers and small business owners to foster shopping locally — something Pop City heartily endorses.

For a full list of small, locally owned businesses in your area officially taking part in Small Business Saturday, check out the official website.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Jeff Izenson

PCRG initiative seeks to revive housing in Pittsburgh's Sheraden neighborhood

Originally built as one of Pittsburgh’s first working-class developments, Sheraden has seen better days. But if a Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group initiative pays off, better days are still to come.

“You kind of have this perfect storm situation where you had this steady population decline, and when the housing bubble burst, Sheraden was hit harder than any other neighborhood in Pittsburgh,” says the PCRG’s Steve Novotny.

The PCRG chose Sheraden — an historic but declining neighborhood in West Pittsburgh — as the pilot for its Reimagining Communities initiative last year. The initiative, which includes partnerships with NeighborWorks Western PA and Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh, is taking a multi-faceted approach toward reversing property divestment in one of Pittsburgh’s most overlooked neighborhoods.

PCRG's help, the Pittsburgh Housing Development Corporation has acquired a number of vacant and foreclosed properties with the ultimate goal of bringing them up to standard and putting them back on the market.

“At a given time you’ve got about 180 vacant sturctures out of about 900 – about a 20 percent rate. The big take away from that is that over the last few years, only about 20 have been for sale,” Novotny says. “What we’re doing is trying to collect data on the property in the neighborhood, and figure out what’s keeping these properties from being on the market.”

In addition to rehabbing homes and collecting information about how to best move forward, the initiative offers Sheraden residents access to financial education workshops and resources. In doing this, PCRG hopes not only to keep current residents from avoiding foreclosure, but build their financial literacy and personal wealth, in addition to offering free repairs for elderly residents’ homes.

“It helps support our work in the neighborhood in addressing these issues and trying to reactivate the housing market,” Novotny says. “The housing stock is largely still intact. It’s a good mix of older, worker-style and mixed-income housing, and a lot of the homes have front and back yards and off-street parking.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Steve Novotny

Eat + Drink: A new Downtown spot from Spoon, bottles of rum and much more

Spoon chefs preview dishes for new Downtown restaurant
Grit & Grace, the new Downtown venture from Spoon Executive Chef Brian Pekarcik and Chef de Cuisine Curtis Gamble, previewed several new dishes during No Menu Monday this week at Bar Marco. We sampled the pickled dates with apple, pear and manchego cheese, the dim sum trio comprised of Hamachi sashimi, Ahi tuna crab rolls and soba noodles with shitake mushrooms and orange-chili vinaigrette, and a salmon entrée served with crispy pretzel bread pudding, braised cabbage and pickled mustard seeds.

The pork larb and curried goat also went over extremely well. Grit & Grace, which will occupy the space at 535 Liberty Avenue formerly held by Taste of Dahntahn, plans to open next month.

The perfect gift for your favorite rum drinker
As we hinted at in an item last week, Maggie’s Farm Rum, Pittsburgh’s newest hand-crafted spirit, will be available to the public for bottle sales only the day after Thanksgiving. Made from Turbinado sugar cane, the French West Indies-style white rum will retail for $28 per bottle.

After Black Friday, Maggie’s Farm will go back to dealing exclusively with local bars and restaurants until owner Tim Russell finishes construction on the distillery’s tasting area and cocktail bar.

Oysters all over
Oysters are all the rage right now and there’s no shortage of places to get them:

Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle
in the Strip District will host the 10th annual Guinness Oyster Festival on Saturday starting at noon. In addition to fresh oysters on the half-shell, the menu will feature fried oysters and oyster stew.

Salt of the Earth
, Kevin Sousa’s flagship eatery in Garfield, has been serving different varieties of oysters on the half-shell as a part of its Tuesday late-night menu since May. The best part? They’re only a dollar apiece.

Recently opened in East Liberty, Bar Marco offshoot The Livermore is now offering an oyster happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Like Salt’s, they’re only a dollar each.

Yiddish food? Where else?!
Nu, the modern Jewish bistro from the owners of Pamela’s, is now open for lunch and dinner service at 1711 Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill. We stopped by for lunch last week and found an absolute revelation in the smoked brisket chili, served with sour cream, shredded cheese and pickled red onions.

The Jewbano — a sandwich featuring thick-cut corned beef, brisket and fried pickles among other things, was delicious, as was our half of the salmon burger topped with lox and capers.

The matzo ball soup was a little on the salty side, but be warned: Nu has taken a side in the light and fluffy versus heavy and dense knaidlach debate, entrenching itself firmly on the side of matzo balls which will sink right to the bottom.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Tim Russell

The Brew Gentlemen plant roots in Braddock

In the great tradition of what Braddock once was, Asa Foster and Matt Katase are out to build something.

“Braddock’s not going to be back to what it was, but it will reinvent itself as something else,” Katase says. “We want to be a part of that.”

Foster and Katase, who met during their freshman year at Carnegie Mellon and became fast friends, started brewing their own beer three years ago while college juniors. Last year, they took over the space at 512 Braddock Avenue and set about — quite literally — building The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company.

Katase recalls showing the space to his brother last year around Thanksgiving.

“I unlocked the door and said, ‘this is where it’s going to be!’ and it was, well, not a disaster, but the remains of what was once an electrical supply store.”

Though they’ve taken a break from actually brewing to physically construct their brewery — they’re doing nearly all of the renovations themselves — they’ve already developed and tested a number of recipes, including four flagship beers which they plan to keep on tap year-round.

Foster, a Boston native, and Katase, who hails from Hawaii, envision their space as a large, serene and inviting area, full of exposed brick and wood, and moving at a different pace than most breweries.

“We are definitely looking to bring something to the Pittsburgh beer market that doesn’t already exist,” Foster says. “We want to have a more café kind of vibe in that we want people to feel comfortable with it as a hangout space, not just a tasting space.”

“Come in and read a book. Come in and get some work done. Nobody’s going to rush you out of your seat just because you’re taking up a barstool,” Katase added.

“It’s a manifestation of our brand, and we want that to be reflective of what our beer is,” Foster says. “It’s the place where we have the most control over quality.”

Foster and Katase hope to start brewing again by late December or early January, and have the taproom open to the public early next year. In the meantime, they’ve had plenty of support.

“Almost every day, someone comes up to us and says something thankful or encouraging,” Katase says. “People are psyched to see young people doing things in Braddock.”

You can follow The Brew Gentlemen’s progress on their blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Asa Foster, Matt Katase

Hazelwood riverfront gets largest TIF in city history

Pittsburgh City Council has approved the largest tax-increment financing plan in the city’s history, green-lighting an $80 million plan to aid in the redevelopment of 178 acres of brownfield in Hazelwood.

Known as Almono, the site once served as the Pittsburgh hub for J&L Steel, later LTV Steel. The company’s operations were so expansive that it built what’s now known as the Hot Metal Bridge to connect its blast furnaces on both sides of the Monongahela River between Oakland and the South Side.

“One of the remarkable things about this project is the fact that four foundations came together to purchase this property so that they could pursue a mixed-use, highly sustainable project, giving them the time and the thoughtfulness to make it an example of best practice from sustainable development,” says Lisa Schroeder, president and CEO of Riverlive. “It’s a long time coming and the scale of it is really a change-maker.”

The foundations — R.K. Mellon, Benedum, McCune and the Heinz Endowments, with RIDC overseeing the development — teamed up to purchase the lot for $10 million in 2002 when it was abandoned space with obsolete infrastructure which cut the community of Hazelwood off from its riverfront. It remains a totally unused gap on the north bank of the Monogahela riverfront, but Schroeder says that should soon change with the TIF now approved.

“One of the reasons that the TIF financing is so powerful is that the site requires an investment in infrastructure,” Schroeder says, adding that development is likely to include not just residential and commercial property, but extension of the city’s riverfront parks and bike trails, as well as gateways from Hazelwood to Oakland, the South Side and Downtown.

“The existing community will be seamlessly weaved into the plan,” she says, adding that Hazelwood will see “urban fabric all the way to the river’s edge.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Lisa Schroeder

Jeremiah's Place is Pittsburgh's first crisis nursery

A single mother is in the hospital and it’s going to be hours before grandma can get in from out-of-state. A military spouse is all alone and in the midst of an emergency, but can’t leave their young child home alone.

“When you talk to families who have young children, they understand this concept,” says Dr. Lynn Williams. “Unless you have family right in the area or a really good network of friends you can turn to, there will be situations in which you’ll need help.”

That’s why Williams, a pediatrician, has teamed up with Dr. Tammy Murdoch and Eileen Sharbaugh to create Jeremiah’s Place — Pittsburgh’s first crisis shelter for children.

“We’ll be a licensed child care and residential facility, capable of keeping kids for up to 72 hours,” Williams says, adding that the facility will be able to accommodate six to 12 children under the age of 6 overnight, and up to 20 kids during the day. “When you don’t know where to turn, this place helps you. We know that if we keep harming or damaging children within the first six years of their lives, that has a very long-term impact on their physical and mental health.”

Jeremiah’s Place, named for one of Williams’s mother’s foster children, aims to provide a safe and caring place for children under the age of six whose families are experiencing tough times, free of charge to parents. In doing so, it looks to help stabilize families by requiring every parent who drops a child off at Jeremiah’s Place to meet with a social worker and set individualized goals.

“Pittsburgh has a lot of fantastic stuff for families and we don’t want to duplicate any of that,” Williams says. “We want to connect people to what already exists.”

That includes collaborating with local non-profits, establishing mentor networks and helping stabilize and strengthen families.

Jeremiah’s Place will occupy 3,500 square feet in the Kingsley Association at the corner of Frankstown Avenue and East Liberty Boulevard in Larimer. The space will include three bedrooms, an open play area and a few offices. Architect John Schrott of IKM has worked pro bono to help design the space, and that construction should begin within the next couple of weeks and be ready to open in January.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Lynne Williams

Eat + Drink: Blowfish BBQ, Butcher and the Rye and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly roundup of epic local nomz.

Finely. Smoked. Meats. 
Just because the Steelers are terrible doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a great game-day experience, food and all. And when it comes to Sunday barbecue, few do it better than Justin Blakey.

Blakey, who’s in charge of all things beer at D’s Six Pax & Dogz in Regent Square and is better known to Pittsburgh beer drinkers as “Hootie,” played off his longtime nickname in creating his new venture, Blowfish BBQ. Every Sunday, Blakey sets up shop at D’s around 1 p.m., selling pork ribs, chicken and beef brisket, along with a host of savory sides such as smoked mac-and-cheese, red potatoes and a vinegar-dressed slaw.

“This is the perfect outlet to start it out,” says Blakey, adding that  while he's fine working out of the D's kitchen for the time being, he's looking to expand and perhaps open up a commercial space offering restaurant and catering services.

Blowfish BBQ’s meats aren’t grilled, but slow-smoked, requiring Blakey to carefully maintain a steady fire at a specific temperature over several hours. Pork and poultry spend the preceding days in various rubs and brines. The brisket takes a different path.

“I really don’t believe beef needs any special treatment — just salt and pepper, and let the smoke do the work,” he says.

In addition to a Texas-style brisket, Carolina-style ribs and his own special recipe for chicken, Blakey is still developing various sauces to complement his offerings. He’s most adamant about perpetuating vinegar-based sauces.

“It accents the meat more than it covers it up. I think with true barbecue, that’s what you’re really looking to do,” he says.

And while you're in the neighborhood…
Unlike Christmas-themed ads or Halloween parties seeping between weekends, one seasonal pleasure limited to November is D’s Franksgiving dog — a turkey hot dog on a steamed, poppy seed bun, topped with mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing and gravy, served with a side of cranberry sauce.

Trust us on this one.

Butcher and the Rye now open Downtown
After a few small events and a soft opening, Butcher and the Rye, the long-awaited second venture from the team responsible for Meat & Potatoes, opened for business last week.

Located at 212 Sixth Street in the Cultural District, Butcher offers creative small plates and open seating to go with their veritable archive of more than 350 kinds of bourbon. Yes, really. There’s even a ladder, reminiscent of those you’ll find in high-ceilinged library stacks, and giving new meaning to the term, “top shelf.”

Whether you stop in to try one of Chef Richard DeShantz’s new offerings or just to have a drink, the view alone warrants a visit, and the big leather chairs near the second-floor bar are especially comfy.

A new Downtown eatery from the creators of Skybar
Ten Penny, an upscale-casual restaurant with a diverse menu, will open later this month at 960 Penn Avenue in Downtown. The latest from Adam DeSimone’s AMPD Group, Ten Penny will offer dinner seven days a week, lunch Monday through Friday, brunch on weekends and special happy hour and late-night menus.

In addition to a large bar with 24 craft beers on tap, the space will offer a variety of seating options including a private dining room which will seat up to 20 people and café-style outdoor dining starting next spring.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Justin Blakey

After a long, strange trip, Maggie's Farm Rum is open for business

When we checked in with Tim Russell in August, he was a ventilation system away from starting production on Maggie’s Farm Rum out of his distillery on Smallman Street in the Strip District.

With all of his equipment in place, all Russell needed to open for business was federal approval of his label from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. ATF is notoriously nitpicky when it comes to approving alcohol labels, often requiring applicants to make multiple revisions and resubmit to what can be a month-long process.

Russell submitted his third iteration in September. Then, the government shut down.

With his label in limbo, Russell found his entire business on hold. The Washington Post took notice, making Maggie’s Farm the lead item in a feature on how the shutdown impacted people outside the federal workforce. That feature led to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a congresswoman from Texas, telling Russell’s story on the floor of the House.

Last Friday, about two weeks after the 16-day shutdown ended, Russell got word that his label was approved, allowing him to open for business.

“Initially, because of limited quantities, I’m just going to make it available to bars and restaurants,” Russell says, adding that he’ll likely open to the public once the cocktail bar and tasting room areas of his space are ready in the next couple of months.

“I might do a Black Friday thing where I’d open up bottle sales to the public whether the tasting room is done or not,” he says.

Russell will do a tasting of Maggie’s Farm Rum tonight from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Bocktown Beer & Grill in Robinson. You can follow the distillery’s progress on Facebook and Twitter.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Tim Russell

Community Builders breaks ground on East Liberty Place South

The Community Builders, one of the country’s largest non-profit developers, ceremonially broke ground Monday morning on East Liberty Place South, a $14.2 million project which will ultimately fill the space where East Mall Apartments once stood.

Located at 5836 Penn Avenue, East Liberty Place South will contain 52 one- and two-bedroom apartments and 11,000 square feet of commercial space.

“It’s a building that’s fairly close to the scale of East Liberty Place North,” says James Eby, senior project manager for Community Builders. “The difference is that we’ve treated the ground floor a little differently. We have a very small residential footprint on the ground. Commercial viability there was very important.”

Eby added that because the units will have certain income limits, he expects rent for the one-bedroom apartments to range between $517 and $900 per month, and the two-bedroom units to go for between $618 and $1,250.

“What we’re doing on the residential space is for people interested in the residential housing, they can get on an interest list. And then when we’re ready to start leasing, they’ll be invited to apply,” he says, adding that the developer received more than 200 applications for similar units in East Liberty Place North, just across the street, before the building opened its doors.

As they did with East Liberty North, Community Builders will work with architecture firm Strada and Sota Construction on the project, which is scheduled to open next October.

“Our goal is to replicate that at South,” Eby says.  “I expect a lot of interest again.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: James Eby
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