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Pierce Street microbrewery cleared

Local beer company Country Club Brewing obtained approval from the Bethlehem Zoning Board on February 22 to convert 323 Pierce St. into a new use as a microbrewery and tasting room. The building is currently an abandoned auto garage, and the surrounding buildings are mainly industrial and commercial. However, the property is technically zoned residential and as such requires a special exception from the city for any other use.

CCB managing member Finneaus Parker told the board that they have plans for a five-barrel system (an extremely small capacity compared to most commercial microbreweries). He added, “It’s a part of the Greenway. We want to encourage people to walk or ride bikes to our brewery. We wanted to be in the center of town but far enough away that it’s not detrimental to anybody.” The next stage in the project is for the company to obtain conditional licensing from the state and federal alcohol authorities.

The board also granted recently-opened VegOut’s application to expand business hours. At the corner of E. Church St. and N. New St., the vegan comfort food cafe is in the heart of Bethlehem’s historic residential district and is not zoned for operation in the evenings. The special exception from the board will allow hours of 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday and Wednesday-Saturday, 8 a.m,-3 p.m. Sunday.

VegOut owner Mary Lopresti testified to the board that business is booming, and she has high demand from customers for dinner service. “It is a warm welcoming environment, offering coffee, snacks, grab and go options, and a healthier, plant-based vegan diet... I’m the only vegan restaurant in the entire Lehigh Valley, trying to pave the way for other people like me, and the response has been overwhelming with only good feedback.”

The city will regain a corner deli and grocery at Hobart St. and E. 3rd., to be operated by Bethlehem residents Shawn Jamal and Noor Alkhteeb. The board approved the re-establishment of business use for the property, which used to be a beauty salon, in the otherwise residential neighborhood.

Lehigh University petitioned for setback and building coverage variances for the planned expansion of the Rauch Business Center. An 18,500 square foot building will be constructed at 459-461 Webster St. According to a statement by the university’s engineers, the building site is an “island lot,” since it is surrounded by roads. The Zoning Code therefore limits building coverage to 65% and building height to 35 feet. However, as attorney Steve Boell argued to the board, “There is no feasible way to build any academic building on the property under those restrictions, as they make it too narrow.” Finding this persuasive, the board approved the variances.

The hearing on Sayre Mansion Real Estate’s appeal of the Zoning Officer’s denial of their building permit application for 250 Wyandotte St. has been continued to Feb. 12.

press photo by charone frankelThis building on Pierce Street is being converted into a microbrewery by local company Country Club Brewing.