East Lawrence brewery plans to open new location in west Lawrence; projected opening date for Fields & Ivy brewery
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo
You had better get some industrial-strength kneepads if you want to participate in a Lawrence Beer Co. pub crawl. The East Lawrence craft brewery has filed plans to open a west Lawrence location.
The company plans to open a smaller bar and restaurant near Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive. Plans call for the new location to open by midsummer at 4811 Bob Billings Parkway. If you are having a hard time picturing the location, it is a commercial building a bit east of the large shopping center at Bob Billings and Wakarusa. The space for a brief time had been home to Issachar Cigar.
The new location, of course, won’t replace Lawrence Beer Co.’s original location at 826 Pennsylvania St. in East Lawrence’s Warehouse Arts District. That location will turn 2 years old in August, and president and co-founder Matt Williams said business has been good there. But the restaurant doesn’t necessarily see a lot of west Lawrence residents.
“It is just hard to get across the big metropolis of Lawrence, I think,” Williams said. “I think a lot of people get home from work, and they really just want someplace that is in the neighborhood.”
The west Lawrence idea will allow the restaurant to accomplish a couple of goals, he said.
“We wanted to expand, and we also wanted to do something more casual,” he said. “We don’t think either location will take away from the other.”
Williams said precise plans were still being developed for how the new location would operate, but he said patrons probably should expect a counter-service type of setup rather than the traditional table service that is offered at the original location. The company won’t be taking advantage of a new state law that allows for self-service beer taps. “Part of the fun is having a bartender to talk to,” Williams said. But don’t be surprised if the self-serve trend finds Lawrence in the future.
The smaller location for Lawrence Beer Co. likely will mean a little different menu. Williams said more emphasis would be on handheld items and food that could be served out of a more deli-style counter setup. Williams didn’t provide many specifics on which menu items may make the move to west Lawrence, but the menu includes items ranging from a variety of burgers to flatbread dishes to a snack mix that somehow combines Frosted Mini-Wheats and spicy Spanish paprika.
Beer, of course, will be the main attraction. Williams said the entire beer menu of Lawrence Beer Co. would be served at the west Lawrence location. While the list changes with the seasons, currently about 13 Lawrence Beer Co. brews are on tap, according to its online menu.
The company has filed a site plan with the City of Lawrence to begin renovating the building. The plan includes creating an outdoor seating area.
“Craft beer and patios work well together,” Williams said.
The west Lawrence project is just the latest sign of activity in the Lawrence craft beer market. As we reported earlier this month, Black Stag Brewery opened on Massachusetts Street, and work is wrapping up on Fields & Ivy brewery near 23rd and Haskell.
Williams said the addition of new breweries to the market was causing him no concerns. Like others, he has said a concentration of breweries actually could improve the overall market.
“It is hard to get people to come to town for just one brewery, but they will come for multiple ones,” he said.
Williams said the East Lawrence location already did well with a number of Kansas City customers, especially when a game or other event was going on in town.
As I’ve taken to noting whenever I write about a new brewery, it does seem like Lawrence has the potential to brand itself as the Craft Beer Capital of Kansas. If it keeps growing, perhaps it will get an even broader label. Williams said the community could legitimately lay claim to special standing in the craft beer world. Lawrence-based Free State Brewing Company became the first legal brewery in Kansas in more than 100 years when it opened in 1989. The company’s founder, Lawrence businessman Chuck Magerl, is the one who worked to get the state laws changed, which made the brewing industry in Kansas a possibility at all.
“Free State whet everyone’s appetite,” Williams said. “They are the ones that really did the hard work. You can tell that lots of people really are seeing the opportunity in Lawrence now.”
I mentioned work is wrapping up at Fields & Ivy at 706 E. 23rd St. I touched base briefly with owner Cory Johnston. He said he expected the business to be open near May 1.
But there is a caveat. The brewery won’t be serving its own beer upon opening. Fields & Ivy suffered a delay in getting its brewery equipment from the manufacturer. Johnston hopes to be serving Fields & Ivy beer within the first month of opening, he said.
As for other details of the operation, Johnston said the menu of the restaurant would feature pizza and other items, and plans have been redrawn a bit to allow for more parking on the site and to create a covered outdoor patio that will seat about 60 people.