AUGUSTA — The capital city’s own craft brewery is slated to serve its first beer in just about six months at 243 Water St.
That’s when the partners behind Cushnoc Brewing Co. estimate the wood-fired pizza restaurant and craft brewery will open its doors.
While there’s a lot to get done between now and then, its identity was announced Wednesday via social media with this simple message: coming soonish.
“We wanted to grab the social media names, and we did that today,” Tobias Parkhurst said Wednesday. It was chance to introduce the company’s logo.
He is one of four partners behind the venture. He’s joined by Casey Hynes, who is making the move from the Liberal Cup in Hallowell; brewer Chris Geerlings, who is relocating to Augusta from Savannah, Georgia, where he worked at Southbound Brewing; and local attorney James Bass.
“There are 19 craft breweries on the peninsula in Portland, and another brewery seems to open every other week in Bangor,” Parkhurst said.
By comparison, Augusta falls short.
“We’re thirsty,” Parkhurst said.
“This is huge,” Augusta Downtown Alliance Executive Director Michael Hall said. “It’s the missing puzzle piece. We have apartments and retail and restaurants coming (to downtown Augusta). The impact of this cannot be understated. It’s going to make this place a destination more than it already is.”
And it will complement the other work going on in downtown Augusta, including the renovation of the Colonial Theatre now underway.
For the last several years, developers, including Parkhurst and his father, Richard Parkhurst, have been investing in Water Street buildings, renovating the upper floors into market-rate apartments, which have been in demand.
Change has been slower to come to the street-level spaces.
Tobias Parkhurst bought the building in early 2016, when longtime owner Stacy Gervais announced her plans to close Stacy’s Hallmark and move to Florida. Since then, he has said he’s interested in working with a restaurant in the space.
“I feel good about the decision to do this, and we have the right group of people to do it,” he said.
The logo and the social media are the least of the tasks ahead of the partners.
They have been working with the Finance Authority of Maine on a business plan, and they plan to secure financing.
While their plans are subject to various approvals and could change as the project moves forward, they are planning for a restaurant that will serve lunch and dinner seven days a week with a capacity of about 100. The brewing equipment is expected to go on the lower floors; the building has two basements below the Water Street ground floor. They are also shopping for an oven, which is not a trivial thing. An oven for wood-fired pizza restaurant is large, weighty and expensive.
“They’re big and cool and will cook a pizza in 60 to 90 seconds,” Parkhurst said.
And the partners need to secure a license to make beer, which is expected to take about six months. They are planning to have three beers on tap: Kennebec Kolsch, Statehouse IPA and a grisette.
The menu will include pizzas with whatever toppings are fresh, as well as salads and appetizers.
Hall said the restaurant’s name is a nod to local history. Augusta is home to the Cushnoc archaeological site, which is on the location of an early 17th century trading post on the Kennebec River.
Keith Luke, deputy director of development services for the city of Augusta, whose work includes economic development, said the news is exciting.
“This is an experienced local group in the food service and brewing business,” Luke said. “This gives us reason for great hope for Water Street and all of Augusta’s downtown.”
As a regional service center, Augusta is home to far more restaurants than the city’s population could support on its own, but it currently has no craft brewery serving food.
“This is bringing something new to Augusta and its downtown,” he said.
Luke said he expects it to be popular with the hundreds of people who travel to the state capital for meetings and events. And its busy time is likely to be January to June, when the Legislature is in session and when many other restaurants that cater to the summer tourist season slow down or close down.
“We can use that to our advantage and have the ability to capitalize on summer traffic as well,” Luke said.
Jessica Lowell — 621-5632