Can you drink beer in a building built in 1882? You can, but it’ll take a lot of work.
Jason and Leah Engler’s plans to convert Bootleg Alley into a brewery on Main Street have reached a financial impasse because of complications with renovations and the town.
That was the message they delivered about the proposed Cool Mountain Brewery at the August Main Street Merchants Guild meeting.
“We’re at a standstill because of financial issues,” said Jason. “The project has become too expensive due to unforeseen delays and additional requirements, and we need to find more money to continue. If there is no money, we’ll either use the building for something else or sell it.”
The Englers have consulted with architects, engineers and other professionals on the project for well over a year. They submitted paperwork to the Town of Payson and thought things were moving forward until they submitted a request for building permits.
“When we submitted the plans for building permits, that’s when the town building manager insisted on a structural evaluation by a professional engineer,” said Jason.
“This resulted in a delay in identifying a structural engineer, a significant cost in hiring them (we had to borrow money from the Industrial Development Authority in order to do this), and then incorporating their recommendations into the revised building plans.”
The town responds
Ray LaHaye, the chief building official for Payson, said Jason has worked with the town on plans and complied with all requests to make the building safe — a big project because Jason wants to change the use of the building from retail to restaurant.
“In that plan review there were a number of items listed as deficient,” said LaHaye.
Once crews opened the wall, LaHaye said the town discovered some serious problems.
“Upon inspection ... the first thing we saw, the wall was listing,” he said. “I also noticed a sag in the ceiling on site. So I went ... on to the inspection (of the opened wall) and saw wood rot ... until we saw this, we did not know what was there.”
Officials and builders identified problems that could lead to safety issues.
A structural engineer went to the site and inspected what LaHaye pointed out and drew up plans to correct the issues.
“The plans were ultimately approved in late June and I think during this time, Jason has gotten other bids that exceeded what he had to raise to get the project done,” said LaHaye.
The Englers understand, but expressed their frustration.
“I don’t believe the person is vindictive or trying to kill the project,” said Leah. “I told the person I wish they had said this at the beginning of the project because that would have changed a lot for us.”
“Yes, we believe that if the town had decided to evaluate the building and inform us they would require a structural evaluation much sooner, it definitely would have changed things,” said Jason. “It might have changed our decision to buy it.”
The couple learned crews will have to tear out the original floor because it is sitting on dirt. The foundation will have to be reinforced with a new concrete slab. The exterior walls and the roof also need to be reinforced.
Other Main Street business owners said they had also had issues with the town.
“You’re not the only one that’s had that experience,” said Dr. Michael Marmer, whose practice is on Main Street. “The town says one thing and then turns around and says something different.”
LaRon Garrett, acting then as the town manager, was at the August guild meeting. He confirmed Engler had submitted a structural engineering report and the town had accepted it.
“The town still agrees with the structural report,” Garrett said.
“We want to have buildings, but we have codes we have to go by,” said Garrett. “We need a structural report, Jason complied. They came back with suggestions on how to fix the issues. One wall is leaning as well as the floor being on the dirt. Jason wants to put heavy equipment on it and the floor needs to be safe. The building needs to be safe. We don’t have much choice but to go by the town codes. We’ll be happy to work with you and try to find a solution.
“We’re not trying to put it down, but it has to meet the codes,” said Garrett. “I feel for you guys because you got into it a long ways before you found this out. If it wasn’t a safety aspect, the grandfather code might have worked, but not with a safety issue.”
LaHaye agreed with Garrett.
Attendees at the guild meeting asked why the town had not told the Englers about these issues earlier.
Jason said he wishes someone with the town would have told him about the need for a structural engineering report during their initial meetings.
“It’s also important to note,” said Jason, “that we did have an independent building inspector look at the building before we purchased it and they didn’t raise any concerns about its structural integrity.”
The required structural changes will cost, at a minimum, an additional $75,000 — money the Englers do not have.
“A brewery is a very expensive business to start, including building renovations to make the building into a brewery. Until the structural renovation came along, we had the money. We had all lending lined up,” Jason said. “We’re not interested in saying what should have happened, we want to move forward and do what needs to be done.”
Jason said they definitely want to go forward with the brewery if they can get the money.
Michele Nelson contributed to this story.