“Invest in Good Times”: Tennessee Brewery Update

Posted on August 1, 2014

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18220By Lees Romano

Up to 250,000 barrels of beer, including the Tennessee Brewing Company’s iconic Goldcrest 51, were brewed at 495 Tennessee Street in the brewery’s heyday at the turn of the 20th century. The building, currently in a state of disarray and neglect, is facing quite a bit of scrutiny from both sides: those who support the renovation and preservation of the building, as well as those who support demolition.

A number of years ago, an anonymous artist nailed a piece of painted plywood to the building, adorning the structure with a snaggle-toothed green monster wearing a fedora. A thought bubble besides the painting’s head reads “Inve$t in Good Time$.” However, today the plywood hangs worn, the paint chipping off to display cracks throughout the wood. Yet something is to be remembered by those who love the building; it’s character. Though the building is in a state of disarray, supporters are attempting to save the brewery, recognizing it’s importance, historical significance, and impact. By investing their own money and putting their own efforts, this group of people attempted to create an event called “Tennessee Brewery Untapped,” an event that held fun activities at the brewery with food and music in order to rediscover the potential of the historic brewery. However, with the event over, supporters of the brewery wonder what the future has in store.

Although there hasn’t been refurbishing projects quite as unique as this one, this type of revitalization is not new to Memphis. The MemFIX event in 2012 encouraged and created uses for the empty row of Crosstown Shoppes on Cleveland, filling them with art studios, galleries, a hula-hooping studio, and the Hi-Tone music club. With Untapped, the organizers are transferring that idea to a single structure instead of a series of them. Whether Untapped is a saving grace for the Brewery, its organizers are at least pleased with the attempt to salvage the building.

A leader of “Untapped,” Taylor Berger, said that the group’s main effort was to prevent the August 1st demolition so that another temporary activation project could be held, one that would involve the brewery backers experimenting more and building off the first event’s success. Another temporary activation project would be able to utilize the four craft breweries—Ghost River, Wiseacre, High Cotton, and Memphis Made—that have popped up in Memphis in the past couple years. However, with a new buyer of the brewery under contract on July 26th, no one can be sure about the building’s future. However, reports reflect optimism, stating that the brewery will be open for at least another 90 days due to a diligence period, one in which the buyer will have inspections and other detail-oriented chores done.

However, while supporters of the brewery’s renewal are working hard to keep it open, others have opposing viewpoints. James Rasberry, Rasberry CRE principal, who represents the brewery’s ownership, told the Memphis Daily News that “We’re not inclined to keep it open for a couple of thousand dollars a month so that we can have a beer garden.” A beer garden was one of the features of “Untapped,” in addition to food trucks and an assortment of other uses that drew people to the grounds.

“It’s still all academic to me at this point,” Rasberry said about the brewery’s possible future. “We’re interested in either passing the baton or taking the building down, unless someone comes forward with a viable option—and a beer garden is not a viable option for us.”

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