USA, RI: Lops Brewing set to open in Woonsocket in May
Something big is brewing at 122 North Main St. in Woonsocket, or at least, it will be soon, the Valley Breeze reported on January 2.
The former tenement house and storefront across the street from Shaw’s Meats is the future home of Lops Brewing, a new brewery and taproom set to open next May. The project is the brainchild of Sean Lopolito, a Plainville, Mass. resident and avid home brewer with plans to move to North Smithfield later this year. Lopolito, who owns his own project management consulting firm, told The Breeze he began the process of opening his own brewery a couple years ago when he decided to shift his career goals toward something he was more passionate about.
“The brewing was really at the top of the list,” he explained during a tour of the future brewery space.
In 2017, Lopolito began looking for a space to host the new business. He checked out a few locations in Plainville, Wrentham and North Attleboro, but nothing stuck. Then, earlier this year, he was driving his son to school at Mount St. Charles Academy when he noticed the work going on at 122 North Main St. The building was in the process of being rehabbed as part of a top-to-bottom renovation and had a vacant space on the first floor.
Lopolito got in touch with John Messier, the building’s co-owner. As it turned out, Messier was looking for exactly that type of business to fill the space. Messier and co-owner Leszek Przybylko began renovating the mixed-use residential and commercial building in 2016. The four-story building, when complete, will include market-rate apartment units on the top three floors and an office co-working space on the ground floor. The developers already had a few offers for the remaining ground floor space, but wanted a restaurant or other business that would fit the profile of the young professionals they’re targeting for the apartments above.
“His business was really the type of business that we were looking for,” Messier said. “We could’ve had a convenience store in here no problem.”
Lopolito signed a lease Oct. 1, and from there, the real work began. The building had once hosted a Laotian market on the first floor and tenement apartments above, but, when Messier and Przybylko took it over, was on the verge of being condemned. The developers had already gutted much of the interior of the building for renovations, leaving a promising but raw space featuring an exposed brick wall and front and back entryways to be transformed into brewery space on the ground floor.
The 40-seat taproom, when complete, will include a bar, seating area and seasonal patio, plus space for trivia nights and live music, according to Lopolito. The room, he said, will offer a comfortable hangout where patrons can stop by for a beer tasting or to watch the game. While no food will be served outside of small snacks, he’s also hoping the neighborhood’s restaurants and other establishments will help bring in visitors from around the state.
“We have the Stadium (Theatre) and a lot of the downtown restaurants in the area, so the idea is to have people come in for a drink before the show, come in for a drink after the show, come in for a drink after work,” he explained.
As for the beer, all of the brewing will take place in the basement, where a 3.5-barrel brewing system will be able to churn out seven kegs per day. Vertical tap lines will carry the beer to thirsty patrons in the tasting room above, and growlers will be available for those who wish to take some to go. Lopolito said his beers tend toward hop-heavy IPAs due to market demand, but he hopes to offer seasonal and experimental beer on a rotating basis.
“We also want to get at some of the other brews that people might not get in other markets,” he said.
Upstairs, renovations continue on 17 market-rate apartment units, which Messier and Przybylko plan to have ready by spring. Among the apartments are two-bedrooms, one-bedrooms and studio “microlofts,” a housing type only recently codified into Woonsocket’s zoning ordinance. Messier said the development will target young professionals working at Highland Corporate Park but he also hopes to keep it affordable for the area, with rents falling between $800 and $1,300.
Rounding out the project is an office space on the ground floor that will host Messier’s company, Neighborhood Property Management, along with other small businesses. The area, he said, will function as a co-working space where companies and individuals can rent business space in a shared setting. A fitness center in the basement will be available to residential and commercial tenants and hopefully provide an area for workout classes in the future.
“Knowing that we wanted to put our office here, we knew we wanted it to be something we could be proud of,” said Messier, who owns several other residential properties around the city.
The brewery will be the second to open in Woonsocket and the first located downtown, where city officials have long attempted to draw new business into the vacant storefronts along Main Street. According to Zoning Official Carl Johnson, former City Planner Rui Almeida laid much of the legal groundwork for the current development. In 2015, city officials established a “Downtown Overlay District” intended to expand possible uses and target development in the neighborhoods along Main Street.
“Now we’re seeing some of the pre-work that he did, and it’s been helpful for the department to see some of these potential businesses get into the area,” said Johnson.
With several large downtown projects, including the state-sponsored Northern Rhode Island Higher Education Center and passenger rail service to Worcester and Providence, on the books for the future, the area appears ripe for further development. Meanwhile, the city’s brewery scene appears to be picking up speed. Ravenous Brewing Company, the city’s first brewery, is currently in its sixth year of operations on Cumberland Hill Road and recently expanded its offerings to include a regular selection of canned beers.
Lops Brewing, playing on its founder’s name combined with the hops used for brewing, still has a few regulatory hurdles to clear before patrons can stop in for a cold one. But Lopolito is optimistic about the new business and hopes to drum up plenty of support before he brews his first batch in the new space.
02 January, 2019