By JOHN T. WARD
In another sign of a possible tsunami of craft beer coming to downtown Red Bank, the former Liberty Hose Company firehouse on White Street has been leased to a startup brewery, the principals said Thursday.
Ross Brewing Company, headed by 42-year-old Little Silver resident John Cocozza, has leased the ground floor of the two-story, century-plus-old structure, which was approved for retail use in May, 2016.
Cocozza said he’s seeking a brewery license that will allow for on-premises consumption of his product as well as takeout purchases. An “outdoor refreshment area” is planned along the eastern side of the building, which abuts a driveway belonging to Bow Tie Cinemas, he said.
Cocozza, who has managed craft-beer pubs in Matawan and Jersey City that purchased their beers from small brewers and has been home-brewing for 10 years, said he was filing development plans with the borough Thursday, and hopes to open the business in the first quarter of 2018. It will specialize in brews made with locally sourced ingredients, including blueberries, raspberries, cranberries and pumpkins, he said.
Ross Brewing is owned by Cocozza; brewer Tom Smolka; and Cocozza’s father-in-law, Mike Feaser, who will oversee both construction and daily production. Broker Joann Clark of Blue Winn Commercial closed the deal.
The scene could soon be awash in craft suds.
• After many months of buildout, Adam Rechnitz’s Triumph Brewing Company, a large-scale restaurant and beermaking operation in the West Side Lofts building on Bridge Avenue, is said to be nearing completion.
• As reported by redbankgreen last month, wedding photographers John and Lovina Arcara plan to create a craft brewery in a vacant retail space at 77 Monmouth Street, next door to Jamian’s Food and Drink.
• And in June, the new owner of the long-vacant former Fameabilia building at 42 Monmouth Street told redbankgreen that a microbrewery was planning to set up shop there. No plans for a brewery there have yet been filed at borough hall.
Already making its own beers is Birravino, Victor Rallo’s restaurant on Riverside Avenue.
Cocozza, who said he was filing his development plans with the borough Thursday, said he hopes to open the business in the first quarter of 2018. But it doesn’t matter who opens first, or that there’s competition, he said.
“I can’t wait for Triumph to open,” he said. “If all these breweries open, Red Bank could become a brewing destination, and the breweries will push each other to make better beer.”
Ross Brewing announced plans in June, 2015 to build its operation at the former Yellow Cab dispatch office at the train station, but there were issues that “we couldn’t get resolved,” Cocozza said. That site has since been approved as part of a 45-apartment development by Matawan-based Denholtz Associates.
“But we still very much wanted to be in Red Bank,” Cocozza said.
Mike Morgan Jr., who along with his father and brothers bought the firehouse from the borough in 2014 for $400,000, told redbankgreen that he’s encouraged that Cocozza “has that experience as a brewer.”
Construction of the brewery will occur at the same time two luxury apartments are being built on the second floor, he said.