When will you brew?

By James Andersen

The Michigan Brewing Co. was supposed to open a bar in downtown Lansing … last year. Many are wondering when it will come.

Carpenters have completed work on a few bars inside what’s set to be a Michigan Brewing Co. location in downtown Lansing, but there’s no beer to be served. Inside the space, spray and paint cans are scattered about and new flooring is being laid down. Passersby shuffle past every day, some stopping to peer in through the building’s big windows. Others wander in through the open door, coming by to talk to the workers for a few minutes. It’s clear that MBC will eventually take up residence here, but Lansing beer lovers are still left wondering what’s keeping MBC away from downtown Lansing.

MBC plans to turn the vacant spot at 402 S. Washington Square into a microbrewery, Principal Shopping District Executive Director Mindy Biladeau said. But no one knows when MBC will hit town. After a planned opening last summer, inside a building that used to house the Greenhouse Bistro, the bar doesn’t appear close to opening, and no one from MBC will respond to questions about it.

Even city officials charged with developing Lansing don’t know when MBC will open.

Bob Trezise, CEO of the Lansing Economic Development Corp., has a clear view of MBC from his office in the Arbaugh Building across the street. He has seen workers move equipment in to the building and isn’t sure what’s causing the delay, but he speculated that the economy might be holding up MBC’s arrival.

“I know outside of my window, I watched them move in a lot of equipment (in April),” Trezise said. “Times are tough and people are proceeding with extreme caution right now.”

At least a dozen phone calls to the Michigan Brewing Co. in Webberville for comment went unreturned. Five messages left for Karen McKay, the retail operations director, were unre turned as well as two messages left for President and CEO Bobby Mason. An e-mail sent to both McKay and Mason also went unanswered.

Workers from Hoard Building and Roofing have been doing carpentry work inside the building since late April and say things are progressing fine. Jeff Hoard said his company is painting and making bars for MBC and has been working with the company for 17 years. He also said that as many as 30 people stop by every day to talk while he and his crew are working.

“We’re getting everything done on our part,” Hoard said.

Even with the enthusiasm, the MBC’s potential new neighbors aren’t sure when the bar will open.

“I was told by one of the workers (in April) that they were going to move in maybe in a couple months,” Al Maywood, owner of the Downtown Smoking Club next door, said.

Maywood said that many of his customers are asking when MBC will move in and said he may turn his store’s smoking lounge into a club so that MBC customers can come next store for drinks.

“I think it’ll be pretty good if it comes here, everybody’s sort of waiting for it,” Maywood said.

Lansing Area Capital Gains reported in April 2008 that MBC was scheduled to open in mid-June 2008 along with MOO-ville, a dairy company based in Nashville.

Doug Westendorp, owner of MOO-ville, said he met with local developer Shawn Elliott two years ago to discuss renovating the building for MOO-ville and MBC. The plan was for MOO-ville to occupy a section of the store and sell milk, hand-dipped ice cream and half gallons of ice cream. Among the materials in the building is a MOO-ville sign that says “MOO-ville Milk Here,” indicating that there are still plans for MOO-ville to set up shop there.

Westendorp said he hasn’t heard from anyone about the project for several months.

“The deadline has moved a year and a half since we talked to them,” Westendorp said. “It’s been just kind of on hold.”

MBC was founded in 1995 and is home to several renowned beers like Celis. MBC products are available nationally and internationally.

In February, it was announced that the MBC would produce a new beer in partnership with Kid Rock with the goal of producing a quality, good-tasting, American-made beer. A Feb. 17 Associated Press article said that MBC plans to invest $7 million in the project.

With customers anxious for the microbrewery, Hoard is hopeful the MBC’s move-in isn’t too far away.

“It’s coming that’s for sure,” he said. “They’re very close.”