Before the team behind Untapped, the six-week pop-up beer garden at the Tennessee Brewery, kicked off the event’s first weekend in April, co-sponsor Michael Tauer wondered if anyone would even come.
“[Untapped co-sponsor] Taylor [Berger] and I had this moment before the project started when we said, ‘Hopefully, at least our friends will show up.’ We were just blown away by how many people came and brought their friends and people from out of town,” said Tauer, a local attorney who is also partnering with Berger on the proposed Truck Stop food truck court for the Cooper-Young neighborhood.
Untapped, which featured local craft beer, food trucks, and occasional acoustic music acts, was intended as a temporary “pre-vitalization” event to showcase the possibilities for the long-abandoned Tennessee Brewery building, which is under contract to be demolished this summer if its not purchased before then.
The event, which ended June 1st, drew hundreds of people from all over the city. Berger said he started the event with 10 staff members but had to more than double that amount to keep up with demand for beer and food.
“I know how to run a restaurant, but this was like running a festival,” Berger said. “There were so many people, and each week, we had to ramp up and make changes. At its peak last Saturday, I had a dozen bartenders scrambling to keep up with the crowds, and they were just pouring draft beer, which is a very fast thing. But we were still getting in the weeds because we had hundreds of people wanting to drink beer.”
“We had no idea what to expect, but on the first weekend, we ran out of cups. We ran out of beer,” said Doug Carpenter of public relations firm Doug Carpenter & Associates, who also co-sponsored the event. “Each week, the crowd was larger than the week prior all the way to the end. The response was remarkable.”
So remarkable that Berger and Tauer want to keep it going. They applied for another special event permit to keep Untapped open on weekends at least until the brewery’s demolition date. But that permit was rejected by the Office of Construction Code Enforcement because, according to Administrator Allen Medlock “special event and temporary permits have prescribed time limitations and a specific number of times per year they may be conducted.” The partners would also need several additional permits from other agencies to continue the event.
But Berger said they are exploring other options. If the event were to continue, Carpenter and co-sponsor Andy Cates of Colliers International would not be involved. The future of the brewery building remains uncertain, but Untapped did bring about more inquiries from potential investors.
The event wasn’t without its detractors though. Jennifer Edwards, who owns a condo at The Lofts building next door to the brewery, said the event was too noisy.
“The noise level just from the sound of people was very invasive, particularly for those of us who have outdoor spaces,” Edwards said. “I’m not against development, but if there is going to be anything like that there in the future, it needs a much tighter occupancy limit in the courtyard.”
Edwards said the Lofts residents were split on their feelings about Untapped. Some supported. Some didn’t. Don Hutson, president of the South Bluffs Homeowners Association, which represents the interest of many homeowners near the brewery, said most residents there were supportive.
“The vast majority of our residents are for anything that is good for downtown,” Hutson said. “We had a couple people who live on the north end close to the event that complained that it was too noisy, and we had some traffic issues. But it's commerce, and that’s a good thing. When I moved to South Bluffs 20 years ago, there wasn’t much going on down here. We were pleased to see some things happening.”