About two years after he first met with village officials in Homewood, Curtis Tarver II was finally addressing trustees to vote on his brewery’s liquor license.
Tarver, 36, told the board he was excited about his plans for Vice District Brewing in the village’s downtown.
“We plan on being here for a very long time,” Tarver said at the meeting last month.
Officials unanimously approved a license for the microbrewery at 18027 Dixie Highway. The business is scheduled to open Aug. 31. In September 2016, the board approved $100,000 in financing to help pay construction costs for the business.
It is the second brewery co-owned by Tarver, the Democratic nominee for the 25th district in the state legislature. Tarver, a lawyer, currently has no opponent in the November general election. Tarver defeated six opponents for the house seat in the March primary.
In 2014, Tarver’s first bar opened in the South Loop. The new site will help triple its brewing capacity, he said.
The new space features a 75-seat tap room and a large space for brewing.
Several years ago, Tarver’s interest in brewing beer began in his basement in Chicago’s North Kenwood neighborhood with his neighbor and now business partner Quinton Cole.
“More than anything else, I started to see how beer could actually spark conversations we might not have otherwise,” Tarver said. “It was bringing folks together. That’s what was most intriguing for me.”
So, Tarver and Cole opened the doors to the first Vice District Brewing on Michigan Avenue. But after realizing there was a problem with their liquor license, the two owners learned they technically couldn’t sell beer on their opening day, however, they could give it away.
“It was the best decision we could’ve made,” Tarver said. “People who might not have otherwise come in came because it was free beer.”
Three days later, the pair were able to sell beer.
Vice District caught on quickly after that, with the wooden picnic tables inside the industrial-chic space filling up nightly. So, a mere 18 months after opening its doors, the business started looking to expand. Tarver said a friend who worked for Cook County told him Homewood might be a good place to look. He took him at his word and came down to the village.
“We knew they were sincere about (business in Homewood) after doing that,” Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld said. “He certainly has devoted himself to putting work into the place.”
The downtown location was formerly the first Ford dealership in Homewood, continuing an unintentional theme, Tarver said, as his South Loop space was the first Buick dealership in Chicago. The open, high ceiling space satisfied the needs for both a communal taproom and a large production area.
The village approved the location in 2016, and Vice District got to work on construction a few months later, building out the interior and bringing in the equipment necessary for production. The water line, however, was two inches too small, a fact that Tarver realized would set him back longer than he anticipated.
“You always expect delays. No project ever, ever goes off without a hitch,” Tarver said. “I don’t think I ever really understood the depth of the delay until we understood that we had to go to IDOT for the permit.”
Because the water line runs under a state road, Dixie Highway, Vice District had to wait until the Illinois Department of Transportation granted a permit for construction, then replace the line underneath the road. That put them back from their anticipated opening date.
But today, with a water line up to code and a liquor license secured, the Homewood location is ready, he said.
“I think you’re going to see people from northwest Indiana, from the city of Chicago, flocking into Homewood and saying, ‘that’s really good beer, but even more than that, they know how to treat you,’” Tarver said. “That’s what’s going to set us apart from a lot of other places.”
Hofeld said the village is excited to have another small business to add to the downtown community, which includes other bars such as Grape & Grain (next door to Vice District), Tin Ceiling and Copper Still Martini Bar.
“That’s what you have to have in a downtown today,” Hofeld said of the small businesses. “It adds to the offerings.”
Tarver is focused on integrating the business into the Homewood community, whether that means hiring locally, donating to local organizations or welcoming everyone into the space.
“I don’t believe you just show up somewhere and say, ‘we’re Vice, patronize us now,’” Tarver said. “We’re here, we’re a partner to the community. Yes, we want to generate revenue, but we also want to give back as well.”
Tarver said he plans to give a portion of the proceeds from the brewery’s grand opening to local organizations.
“People will give us the chance, but if they’re not feeling welcome, we’re doomed,” Tarver said. “I think the best thing for any business is to treat everyone who walks through the door with dignity and respect, period.”
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August 20, 2018 at 05:30PM