West Sixth Brewing Co., a new craft brewery, announced Wednesday it would open a tap room, beer garden and beer production plant in the former Rainbo bakery at Jefferson and West Sixth streets in Lexington.
The microbrewery will be part of The Bread Box, a larger mixed-used development that is planned for the 90,000-square-foot building.
The development will include other "like-minded businesses and non-profit organizations that share our values and dedication to the community," Ben Self, one of the founders, said during a walk-through of the building.
Already committed to go into The Bread Box are The Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop; Cricket Press; and FoodChain, a non-profit focused on urban indoor food farming. It will grow vegetables and raise tilapia as part of a "vertical farm."
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Self, 34, was a founder of Blue State Digital, which played a key role in Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Self has since left the company.
In addition to Self, three other businessmen are involved in the brewery: Joe Kuosman, 34; Brady Barlow, 37; and Robin Sither, 39. The brewing company will begin producing beer in the spring.
Self said they all are fans of home-brewed beer.
West Sixth Brewing will brew small batches of a variety of beers. "Always top-quality, fresh beer using local ingredients whenever possible," said Sither, who has 10 years of experience at Alltech's Kentucky Ale brewery.
An underlying principle of the company is to be environmentally friendly, hire local workers and be a good partner to the historic Northside Neighborhood.
The microbrewery will donate 6 percent of its profits to local charities and non-profit organizations "that make our community a great place to live," Self said.
Kuosman, Barlow and Self, partners in The Bread Box, paid $550,000 for the building at 501 West Sixth Street, which dates to the 1890s.
It was a bakery until the 1990s, and in recent years it was used for storage by Vital Records Inc.
Much of the structure is divided into large open rooms with industrial-style windows. The floors, walls and roof are intact. "That was one of the attractions. There is still lots of original parts to the building, things we can use," Kuosman said.
In the room where the brewery will be housed, the original yellow tile walls remain, still in good condition. Several rooms have original tile floors.
The partners looked at other buildings before settling on the Rainbo building.
Barlow said several positive factors converge at that location.
The next phase of the Legacy Trail, a biking and jogging path, will pass beside the building. The new Bluegrass Community and Technical College campus, now under construction, is immediately to the west, and Transylvania University, with 1,100 students, is a few blocks to the east.
The Bread Box is the latest in a series of projects transforming Jefferson Street into a restaurant and entertainment corridor.
Bars and restaurants on Jefferson between West Main and Third include Stella's Deli, the Grey Goose, Nick Ryan's Saloon, Wine + Market, Wingspan, the Green Lantern and Cornermart Grill.
On Saturday, a barbecue restaurant, The Wagon Bones Grill, is scheduled to open at West Short and Jefferson.
A warehouse at 505 West Fourth Street and Jefferson was bought by Town Properties in August for $500,000, according to the property valuation administrator's Web site. Plans for that two-acre site have not been announced.
Keith Clark, owner of the Grey Goose, has bought a house at 485 Jefferson, across the street from his popular pizza restaurant and bar. He plans to open an upscale cocktail lounge called The Blue Heron.
Clark, who lives around the corner from the Grey Goose on West Second, said he had anticipated that the Goose would be "a lightly patronized neighborhood place. The number of people coming here exceeded my expectations by double."
Don Wathan, owner of Nick Ryan's Saloon at 157 Jefferson, said he was glad to hear of a business going into the former bakery. "That's such a positive step. With the opening of the community college, that whole north end of Jefferson Street is going to be revitalized," he said.
Wathan built the Nick Ryan's site, and it opened in November. The restaurant is on the first floor. Two apartments are on the second.
The success of the restaurant spurred Wathan to buy property next door and build a second building for more inside and outside dining space. The addition opened in September. "I'm just excited about the whole street. I see Jefferson becoming a dining district," he said.
Next door to Nick Ryan's, a historical house at 163 Jefferson is being renovated by the Lexington Homeownership Commission. And at 167 Jefferson, the commission is building a four-plex apartment building.
The house and the four-plex, built with no federal housing subsidies, will be rented at market rates comparable to other rents in the neighborhood, said Barry Holmes, chief operating officer of the Lexington Housing Authority. Construction is scheduled to be completed in February.
Seth Brewer, president of the Northside Neighborhood Association, said: "We are excited that the Rainbo bakery will be brought back into human use and that the developer' plan is so in line with what we want in the neighborhood."
The north side is in a unique position, Brewer said, in that the neighborhood has industrial zones abutting residential zones, a holdover from the time when industrial sites used to be on the outskirts of town. "We don't want to have a 24-7 noise producer in our industrial buildings. But we don't want them to be boarded-up buildings either," Brewer said. The association thinks the brewery and the larger Bread Box will be a good fit, he said.
Brewer said he hoped the Bread Box would be a positive influence for that section of Jefferson and West Sixth — much like Al's Bar has been at North Limestone at Sixth — to help erase "the old stereotypes of the north side and downtown being high-crime areas."
According to police statistics, the central sector of the city is the safest of the city's three police sectors. And the north side is the safest neighborhood in the central sector.