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Township approves permits for new brewery on Groesbeck

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published December 16, 2015

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Kuhnhenn Brewing Co. is in the process of crossing its T’s and dotting its I’s, growing closer to opening its new location in Clinton Township.

The brewery — which initially became popular for its beer, crafted and served at its location off Mound and Chicago roads in Warren — decided to expand to meet popular demand and have more space to brew its product.

Of course, many steps have to be taken to open a new business — especially one in a different area. But the business’ strides have been met with enthusiasm from residents and the Township Board of Trustees, which voted Nov. 30 to grant entertainment and outdoor activities permits.

The votes, which took place in the form of two separate agenda items, were each 6-1. Township Treasurer Bill Sowerby voted ‘no’ against both items.

The original discussion centered on some concerns members of the board had, including parking and noise volume.

Charles Earl, an attorney representing the business owners, said, “We’re getting closer to the end of a pretty long journey.”

He mentioned two provisions that have been made by the owners, Bret and Eric Kuhnhenn: First, the staff will provide supervision in the evening and around closing time, making sure patrons will exit in an orderly fashion at closing time and will not loiter in the parking lot; and that Kuhnhenn has reached out to neighboring businesses to reach agreements related to overflow parking, especially when the other businesses are closed.

On Nov. 25 Eric Kuhnhenn wrote a letter to Clinton Township Planning Director Carlo Santia, saying: “In the event of a need for overflow parking at the new Groesbeck Highway brewery, I have asked Lumber Liquidator, our immediate neighbor to the south, and Pool Town, our immediate neighbor to the north, to allow our patrons to use their parking lots in the event our parking area is full.”

The letter also mentioned that each aforementioned business agreed to allow Kuhnhenn’s patrons to use their lots for parking until further notice, just as long as patrons park there at least 30 minutes after either of the businesses close for the day.

Sowerby said he was concerned with the parking situation, mentioning a special meeting that was held between township officials — including himself — and Kuhnhenn representatives. He felt the issue related to parking, as well as occupancy, was not fully resolved prior to the board meeting on Nov. 30.

“There was a process that needed to take place for the well-being of the residential neighborhood behind the establishment for the safety of the patrons attending the place, and for an orderly process of available parking, and I just felt that this business and the township didn’t get together well enough to complete that process,” Sowerby said after the meeting. “It’s not about the relationship; it’s about a cohesive relationship between the business, residents and surrounding businesses and the speedy, busy highway it sits on.”

Earl countered Sowerby’s concerns by saying that parking should not be as big of an issue as projected, with multiple people arriving in single vehicles, “party vans” arriving with numerous individuals, and Uber cabs bringing people there and back so no drinking and driving takes place.

He also said the patio plans to be open until 2 a.m, with about 45 people being able to be outside. He mentioned an approximate eight houses on the other side of the wall, near the outdoor patio and adjacent to the building, and how foliage and detached garages block the sound of music and noise.

He said it’s not necessarily appropriate that the business be subject to the neighbors’ whims, either.

“We think it’s going to be a little bit of an evolutionary process,” Earl said. “The convenience of the parking and the number of patrons that will show up is going to be driven by the ability to find convenient parking. And there really isn’t any parking on side streets.”

Supervisor Bob Cannon mentioned that before Kuhnhenn moved into its current location, the old building — Evergreen Nursery —was on the verge of being torn down.

He added that the clientele that will visit the new establishment are a different breed of drinkers, presenting a different scene than your average bar. 

“We think Groesbeck Highway has a lot of potential. We know Groesbeck Highway needs a lot more work,” Cannon said. “This is a very high-class operation.”

Trustee Paul Gieleghem said it’s a great business with a great product, and that the township is just concerned with the high demand and how to deal with it properly.

Trustee Ken Pearl mentioned sitting on the patio of Great Baraboo Brewing Company, another brewery located on Utica Road. He said the patio itself is a calm scene, with all the noise mainly coming from the main road.

As part of the township’s ordinance, Kuhnhenn will have to stop outdoor music at 10 p.m. Also part of the provision is to add stopping blocks in front of the business, which would prevent a car traveling at high speeds on Groesbeck from veering off into the patio and putting patrons at risk.

At press time, neither the owners nor management returned phone calls to provide information on when the brewery will be open to the public.