who possess a desire to expand in town. Digger's Fine Food & Spirits, a traditional Irish-style pub and restaurant on West Main Street, has aspirations to open their own microbrewery using an unoccupied, 1,600-square foot section of its building―the former Crystal Bar, located west of Diggers' ―and transform the establishment into a fully-operational brew haus, a pub and/or restaurant that brews and serves beer on premise.
As of right now, the proposed microbrewery, which would produce six standard styles of beer available on draft and rotate between four seasonal selections, is currently in the "seeking finance stage" according to Digger's owner Stephen Wirth. Wirth is trying to fund the expansion through the Small Business Administration, and is hoping to have a loan approved within the next month or so. But considering the current state of the economy - and his industry - finding approved financing has been no easy task.
"The SBA is taking into account that restaurants have high failure rates, so sometimes it feels like we're taking one step forward and a half step backward," Wirth said.
And he'd rather wait than rush into anything financially.
"I don't want to be held over a barrel (by a private investor) just because I want to get this deal done," he said. When asked how confident he was that financing would be obtained, Wirth gave a conservative 50/50 estimate.
If loan approval does come, Wirth mentioned Supervisor Sean Walter's "fast track" site plan approval from last winter's 'Downtown Summit.' At that meeting, which brought a room-full of investors from all across Long Island, along with members from Town Hall, Walter and Planing Department Head Rick Hanley said a compliant site plan could be in and out of town hall within two months.
Following site plan approval, equipment must purchased, followed by construction. Wirth said an optimistic timeline opens the project in the middle of next year, and has already organized the distribution plan for Digger's-produced beer.
"First we brew for ourselves, then hopefully for other restaurants and bars around here and for outside areas, as well," said Wirth. "I want to hit New York City, Conneticut and Pennsylvania with our beer, definitely."
Whether it be Long Ireland's current construction phase, or Digger's proposed expansion plan, it is quite apparent that Riverhead is set to become Long Island's newest craft beer hotspot.
"I've often thought that Riverhead and the whole East End would be the obvious place to build a potentially strong local beer culture," believes Donavan Hall of Rocky Point Artisan Brewers and author of 'The Beer Hall Guide to Long Island.' "Putting down roots (in Riverhead) is smart since it puts them right in the center of the East and gives them a community base that can get behind them and support the release of new beer."
Pub/Restaurant: Digger's Fine Food & Spirits
Home: 58 West Main St., Riverhead
Standard Beer Styles (proposed): American Light Lager, Golden Ale, Red, Brown, Stout, Porter
Seasonal Beer Styles (proposed): Belgian Wit (Spring), Wheat (Summer), Pumpkin (Fall), Sour Cherry/Spiced (Winter)
Expected Opening: Mid-2011