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USA, OH: Royal Docks Brewing Company expanding to Cleveland
Brewery news

In a couple of months, Stark County-based brewpub chain Royal Docks Brewing Company plans to expand to Cleveland by opening a location in Ohio Citys booming Hingetown neighborhood. Ohio City is a community with a half-dozen brewpubs already in operation. But with their planned Royal Docks Tied House + Kitchen, the proprietors are confident they can offer something the others dont, NEOtrans reported on March 1.

Their leased site, at Detroit Avenue and West 28th Street, is where Columbus-based North High Brewing Co. tried to make a go of it but abruptly closed its doors in September 2023 after just two years in business. The location, a 5,217-square-foot space at 2814 Detroit Ave., is owned and managed by COhatch Ohio City, a coworking space that offers offices and other workspaces.

Royal Docks Brewing will invest $350,000 to remodel the space with a restaurant and taproom. When they open in May, the brewpub intends to hire 26 team members, said CBRE First Vice President Kevin Moss who helped Royal Docks find the right space for the nine-year-old company that now has three locations near Canton in Stark County and is looking for more in Northeast Ohio.

But if the terms Ohio City and brewpub already sound familiar when spoken together, theres a very good reason why. The community has Market Garden, Hansa House, Nano Brew Cleveland, Bookhouse Brewing, Saucy Brew Works plus the company that re-ignited craft brewing in Ohio nearly three decades ago, the Great Lakes Brewing Co. Still, that doesnt scare off Royal Docks brewmaster Dave Sutula or his partner John Bikis.

So weve been looking into this area for quite some time, Sutula said in an e-mail to NEOtrans. We were just looking for the right deal with the most upside and the space next to COhatch had what we think is the right combination. Its been our experience that other than the tried-and-true considerations of demographics, traffic, etc. that one of the biggest factors in success is the right partnership with the community and the landlord. This place has both right out of the gate.

The Cleveland native said the community was supportive of him and Bikis during their search. He thanked Ward 3 City Councilman Kerry McCormack who he said proactively reached out to him and Bikis. Local businesses asked them how they could help and COhatch representatives expressed a passion that was similar to Royal Docks partners for building a community around their products.

With regard to craft beer establishments and the idea of saturation, we dont necessarily think that theres room for more as much as we think theres room for different, Sutula explained. Theres always room for good experiences and we believe that we can craft something that is more than just that we make our own beer or whatever novelty fueled the craft beer renaissance over the last 15 years.

What are their products? In addition to a full-service cocktail bar, Royal Docks Tied House + Kitchen will offer brands made at its Jackson Township production facility Backyard Crusher, Northeast Legacy Lager, Royal Pils and Vlad Imperial Stout. They will also brew wood-aged beers at the Hingetown location. The kitchen will provide shareables, flatbreads, sandwiches and salads.

It might sound like marketing-speak, but the reason we started this business in the first place was because we are in love with the idea of the English pub, Sutula added. Not the low ceilings, cribbage boards and peat-fueled fire though I personally do love those too but the idea that even in our far more fast-paced tech-driven society we can still connect on a communal level in the way that the pub is the centre of the English village.

In many ways, he contends that Royal Docks have actually achieved that at their original locations in Stark County through a combination of hosting events, treating customers like family, offering real human-scale interaction and basically being the place where you want to go to unwind. Fire pits on the patio help too.

I would love to be able to tell you that we have some great algorithm that tells us that this particular corner in this particular neighborhood is insulated from adverse market forces in some unique way, but really, for us, its a gut feeling albeit born of a modicum of experience bolstered by a huge helping of perhaps over-wrought self-confidence that we can build the kind of place we want here, Sutula said.

As for the market itself, theres a lot going on. The pace at which new apartments and renovated homes are popping up around Ohio City and especially Hingetown reminds Sutula of Columbus and its frenetic growth. He said he had his first taste of the microbrewery business as a volunteer at Great Lakes Brewing Co. in 1991 and making beer right down the hill at a couple breweries in the Flats in the 1990s.

These neighborhoods are becoming even more walkable if thats even possible for a place like Ohio City and the residents are exactly the right kind of people for what we have in mind, Sutula observed. That neighborhood is sort of the seat of the history of small-scale brewing in Ohio and as a lifelong Clevelander, a brewer and a history buff, that appeals to me. I dont know, Ohio City is just cool.

02 March, 2024
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