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Trio of businessmen plan new craft brewery in Downtown Ocoee

Located at the northwest corner of McKey Street and Cumberland Avenue, the new business would convert an existing one-story, 2,988-square-foot office building to a 550-square-foot brewery area with three barrels (93 gallons), with a 900-square-foot taproom, and a 550-square-foot patio with 40 seats.
Located at the northwest corner of McKey Street and Cumberland Avenue, the new business would convert an existing one-story, 2,988-square-foot office building to a 550-square-foot brewery area with three barrels (93 gallons), with a 900-square-foot taproom, and a 550-square-foot patio with 40 seats. (Orange County Property Appraiser)

Three local businessmen are teaming up to launch a new craft brewery in downtown Ocoee in anticipation of the area's redevelopment, and will hire contractors, an architect and engineer in the coming months, one of the trio told GrowthSpotter.

Located at the northwest corner of McKey Street and Cumberland Avenue, the new business would convert an existing one-story, 2,988-square-foot office building to a 550-square-foot brewery area with three barrels (93 gallons), with a 900-square-foot taproom, and a 550-square-foot patio with 40 seats.

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To be named Toll Road Brewery, the taproom would have 10-12 taps serving eight to 10 house-brewed beers, with two to four guest taps.

The outdoor space would include a large covered patio, room for family activities like cornhole and giant Jenga, and a new awning along the McKey Street frontage.

Insight on how the city's high bond rating gives it the opportunity to pursue a capital infusion that would kick-start work on its downtown redevelopment.

"From seeing Ocoee's development plans it's going to be a fantastic downtown area once complete, an urban hub with brick streets and apartments above retail," said Duane Morin, a co-founder of the business. "We're excited to be in before that begins, and help usher in other businesses and foot traffic."

Morin and friends Russ Balazs and David Strickland have a passion for craft beers, brewing in their homes for more than a decade.

The three bring different backgrounds to the new venture. Morin is a business development manager for a large beverage company, Strickland is a general manager for a heavy equipment company, and Balazs owns a custom car mobile electronics business

"After visiting several big and small breweries here and on the west coast, we were inspired to see how this can be a profitable business without necessarily being a huge capital investments," Morin said.

Ocoee's Planning and Zoning Commission gave its approval Tuesday for a special exception on the property to allow the brewery, following staff's recommendation. The request next goes before the City Commission on Dec. 6 for final approval.

If approved, Morin and his peers plan to sign a lease to the building on Jan. 1, and submit for city construction permits, and federal and state brewing permits.

State brewing permits can take up to seven months to process, Morin said, putting them on track for an August 2017 opening, or earlier.

"We'll need contractors primarily for plumbing and electrical, we have yet to contact other breweries for referrals but will reach out to them," Morin said. "We've also made contact with a few civil engineers and architects, but have yet to hire (either)."

Ocoee has been working to develop a downtown master plan for the past two and a half years, with multiple road projects and the potential relocation of City Hall prioritized as first steps in redevelopment.

"The city's downtown doesn't have anything like this (brewery) today," said Mike Rumer, Ocoee city planner. "They're artisans, and it's a use that would potentially bring more people to the downtown."

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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