An Orlando tech entrepreneur with a passion for Pilsner is fulfilling a life-long dream of opening his own German beer garden on the site of the former JungleLand Zoo on Kissimmee’s W192 tourism corridor.
Waylon Krush, who founded and sold cyber security firm Lunarline, paid $1.3 million a few weeks ago for the long-abandoned zoo attraction at 4580 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway and has already started cleaning and clearing the 6.8-acre site. He plans to retrofit the 6,144-square-foot building into a brewery and cafe serving everything from schnitzel to sausage.
He’s calling it the Tiger Konig Beer Garden: Tiger as an homage to the zoo, and Konig as a riff on the German spelling of “king.”
Krush said his love of German beer and food took root when he was stationed there in the Army. “This really is a passion project,” he told GrowthSpotter. “My background is more software and hardware automation. I’ve always wanted to do this.”
So after running his own company for 16 years, he sold it and launched his dream to bring a touch of Oktoberfest to Kissimmee. He purchased a tent and outdoor furnishings from Munich and plans to give the building’s exterior a Bavarian makeover.
“I’m keeping the waterfall on the front the building, but that’s the only part of the facade people will recognize,” he said.
The interior will receive a full, gut renovation with new plumbing, electrical and upgraded HVAC. “It’s a lot of work,” he said. “Everyone wants to knock it down, but it has a great history. It’s probably going to cost more, but I plan on retrofitting.”
Krush said he’ll import a variety of German beers, but will also serve as the brewmeister. He wants to flavors to be authentic to the region.
“I’m buying a technology-enabled system where you can load the recipes, and you don’t have to be a master brewer,” he said. “You can just start with a basic recipe for Kölsch, but you might adjust the level of hops.”
He plans to take advantage and make full use of the outdoor space, repurposing the zoo arena into a performance space for live entertainment. He also wants to build new play areas and have a trackless train circulating through the grounds to attract families.
The property is about a quarter mile from another longtime Kissimmee attraction: Medieval Times. The zoo first opened in 1977 and closed permanently in 2002. At one point, the property had running code enforcement fines of $1.1 million.
The seller, Orlando gift shop mogul Arvind Nandu, had previously toyed with converting the property into a self-storage facility but ultimately chose to sell it, netting himself a $750,000 profit after less than two years.
Krush is scheduled to meet with Osceola County’s planning staff on Oct. 6. He said he hopes to have permits in hand in time to open by February 2021.
Meanwhile, the owners of the adjacent 36-acre property held a pre-application meeting Tuesday with City of Kissimmee. They are applying to annex their land into the city and want to build a multifamily community with over 300 units.
The land is almost entirely wetlands, and the site plan submitted to the city shows the construction would all take place on the perimeter of the site. The submitted site plan calls for 312 dwelling units across a mix of 2-story townhomes and 5-story garden-style apartment buildings.
The developer, Juan F. Nagaro, purchased the property earlier this year for $300,000 under the entity South American Holdings LLC. A licensed architect, Nagaro is owner of Blue Projects USA.
He has enlisted KPM Franklin for the civil work and permitting process. The project would require approval for the annexation and to change the future land use from Tourist Commercial to Mixed-Use Vine. The proposed T5-U Zoning falls under the city’s new form-based code and allows multifamily buildings up to 5 stories.
Planning Manager Brenda Ryan told the developer he could build up to 8 stories if he qualifies for a density bonus. “I think the biggest challenge is going to be getting through the public hearing process,” she said.