Blue Line Brewery plans expansion

SARANAC LAKE – The village’s only brewery could become its first brewpub.

Blue Line Brewery owner Mark Gillis wants to put an addition onto the back of the former Lake Flower Avenue car wash he converted last year into a microbrewery and tasting center. He told the Enterprise Thursday that it’s part of his plan to create a brewpub.

“What I’m looking to do is basically put on approximately 700 square feet on the back side of structure,” he said. “Some of that is going to be for cold storage for the brewing operations, and some of that’s going to be for a commercial kitchen. I’m looking to change my license from New York state from a microbrewery license to a brewpub license.”

Gillis said he would continue selling growlers of beer and providing kegs to bars and restaurants around the North Country. If he gets the new license, he could serve food and sell pints for consumption in the business. Half of the current space would become a dining room with six or seven tables. Gillis also hopes to put a deck on the roof of the addition.

“The views back there are unbelievable of McKenzie Mountain,” he said. “During the warmer months there would be outdoor seating out there.”

Gillis said the brewpub’s menu wouldn’t be very extensive. He said it would have a few basic items, including pizza. He said he made a lot of pizzas while working at Massachusetts restaurants from his teenage years to his mid 20s.

“I made about 50,000 to 60,000 pizzas in my life before – that’s not an exaggeration,” he said. “That would be my main focus.”

Gillis said he expects to hire one or two full-time employees for the brewpub and several more part-time workers.

Blue Line Brewery is housed in a building that Gillis leases from Carcuzzi Car Care Center owner and town of Harrietstown Supervisor Bob Bevilacqua.

Since Blue Line opened late last year, Gillis said business has been growing. He started out brewing three or four barrels of beer a month. By this summer, his production was up to 25 to 30 barrels, though he said things have quieted down this fall. Gillis said he needs the additional cold storage because his production increased so much.

“Things are going well,” he said. “When I first did this, I wasn’t exactly sure where I wanted to take it going forward. I knew (a brewbub) was an option. The money I’m spending on this, I could put a bottle or canning line in. But there’s so many microbreweries opening up right now, I’d have to fight for shelf space, and that doesn’t seem fun to me. Putting a commercial kitchen in and being able to sell pints for consumption along with some food sales is a better bang for my buck.”

The project was presented to the village planning board Wednesday night. Village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans said the board asked for more details on lighting, parking and the building’s siding, but otherwise raised no big issues.

Gillis said he hopes to get approval next month, pour the concrete slab for the addition by Dec. 1 and begin work on the structure in the spring. The brewpub is tentatively set to open in May or early June, Gillis said.