Royal Docks Brewing Co. is looking to open a pub and small brewery in downtown Akron as part of the $42 million Bowery redevelopment project.

The brewery is the first potential tenant publicly linked with the project.

Royal Docks, which operates a production brewery and separate tasting room in Jackson Township, is looking to expand outside Stark County as more consumers seek locally made craft beer.

"As things turn more and more local, it's up to us to become local to more and more places," award-winning Royal Docks brewer Dave Sutula said. "And Akron is right up the street. If we were in Cleveland? That proximity? Everybody would say we're local. But for people in Akron, Canton might as well be Atlanta."

The brewery is now working on drawings for the project and "figuring out where the cash comes from," he said.

Beth Borda, vice president at DeHoff Development Co., part of the Bowery Development Group, confirmed Thursday that the company is in discussions with Royal Docks but said a lease has not been signed. The company is talking with other interested tenants, as well, she said.

She declined to identify other potential tenants.

DeHoff, Welty Building Co. and other partners held a Bowery groundbreaking in November. The project calls for the renovation of a row of six empty, dilapidated buildings fronting South Main Street into apartments, offices and retail space, along with turning Lock 4 behind the structures into a destination site and enhancing the Akron Civic Theatre. Most of the work is expected to be done by the end of this year.

Developers have long said that they would like a craft brewery to be part of the project, but no names had previously been made public.

"There are a lot of great craft beer drinkers in the area," Royal Docks founder John Bikis said. "At the end of the day, we would like to make it easier for them to try our beers, to know about us and so on."

Sutula said the expansion may not stop with Akron. Royal Docks also may look at opening locations in Cleveland and Columbus, he said.

The Bowery project is especially enticing for Royal Docks because of other craft breweries already downtown. Akronym, Lock 15, Missing Falls and Thirsty Dog are all nearby, while R. Shea is in the process of opening a production brewery and restaurant downtown.

"It's going to be great," Bikis said. "Everyone is saying, 'Aren't you afraid of that?' Well, no. It's going to be a destination."

Royal Docks opened in 2015 as a nanobrewery in the DeHoff-run Marketplace at Nobles Pond shopping plaza at the intersection of Fulton Drive and Wales Avenue Northwest. Sutula and Bikis want the Akron location to have the same feel as the Marketplace site.

Last year was an eventful one for the brewery. It was ranked by the Brewers Association as the fifth fastest-growing craft brewery in the U.S. based on 2017 volume. It produced 4,300 barrels last year. Meanwhile, it also opened a separate production brewery called the Brewhouse and Cannery at 5646 Wales Ave. NW and won a gold medal for Pendragon at the Great American Beer Festival.

Royal Docks, which is available statewide through Heidelberg Distributing, is known for beers such as Dare IPA, Backyard Crusher, Baba Yaga and Yuletide.

 

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com. Read his daily beer blog at www.ohio.com/beer. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.