The Brighton City Planning Commission Monday night approved the site plan for a microbrewery at what is commonly known by local residents as the "Pink Hotel".
The developer is John Becker, CEO of J.L. Becker Company in Northville. The business will be operated by his son, Matt, who lives in Green Oak Township, just outside Brighton.
"When we saw the building we fell in love with it," John Becker told the Planning Commission. "We researched the history of the building and want to preserve its historic character, but to upgrade it, improve it," Becker said.
John Becker says he will spend about $1 million in buying, improving and expanding the three-story, 6,000-square-foot building at West Main and First streets in downtown Brighton. It will be the first microbrewery in the Brighton area and believed to be the only one between Ann Arbor and Fenton.
Becker says the microbrewery will attract beer connoisseurs from a wide area who will also result in customers for the downtown's other businesses such as restaurants, shops and pubs. The Beckers said that the artisan beers crafted on site would be available at some local restaurants and pubs.
Constructed in 1873, the Pink Hotel was originally known as the Western House Hotel, and much later got its distinctive (though unofficial) name because of the pink bricks used in its construction. It has housed several types of enterprises over the decades and currently has offices on the first floor and apartments on the upper floors.
John Becker is in the process of purchasing the building and expects to close on the property in about two weeks, after which the project will begin.
The Beckers plan to gut much of the interior to make way for the equipment including brewing kettles, along with a 2,000-square-foot addition for restrooms and an elevator, beer-tasting bars and a European-style beer garden (Biergarten in German), to be located between the building and the railroad tracks.
"We're glad that the building has found a new use which will assure its continued existence," Planning Commission Chairman Steve Monet said after the meeting.
The Beckers hope to crown the building with a brewery sign which would mimic the original sign for the Western House, something that would require approval from the local Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance.
The Beckers say they will produce a large number of unique brews, including one from the American colonial era and another dating all the way back to the Vikings.
Although the microbrewery will not serve meals, snacks will be available for sale.
The tentative name for the building will be the Western House Brewery, named after the original business. The architect on the project is Piet Lindhout Associates of Brighton.
The City Council will consider final site plan approval at its Sept. 1 meeting. The Beckers hope to be able to open the microbrewey by April 2012.