Encore effort will add to Cranbrook’s fun quotient
Cranbrook’s newest entertainment venue is nearing completion.
After two long and challenging years, Encore Brewing Co. owners Jesse Roberts and Fred Williams recently outlined progress at the former Juniper Lanes Bowling Alley.
The two entrepreneurs who transformed one of Cranbrook’s most iconic buildings into a thriving downtown hot spot – the Fire Hall Kitchen and Tap – are doubling up on their bid to provide the Key City with a more vibrant downtown by transforming another city icon into a multi-use entertainment facility. Hence the name – Encore Brewing Co.
The facility will also feature a full restaurant, a brewery, eight bowling lanes, an arcade with such large games as a basketball shoot among other attractions and a stage for live music performances. Seating capacity will be just shy of 300.
There will be a patio beside the 14,000-square-foot building, which was built in 1962.
“After going through covid, you’d never set a place up without a patio,” Jesse said.
To say the project has been a challenge would be an understatement.
“Just the state of the world, whether it is supply chain or whatever. One of our pieces of equipment that we can’t open without will be on order nine months when it arrives,” Jesse said.
“It was bought and paid for back in July,” Fred noted at the end of December 2022 (when they toured e-KNOW through the under-construction facility).
Along with challenges created by the pandemic, others arose from the age of the building, including replacing and repairing much of the old bowling alley infrastructure, redoing the interior and exterior envelope and dealing with some flooding.
“All of it will result in a better finished product,” Jesse noted. “The budget grew by double, twice,” he shrugged.
“Luckily, people ate a lot of hamburgers and drank a lot of beer at the Fire Hall this summer. We had our busiest year ever, which was what exactly needed to happen,” Jesse said.
Fred, who oversees the construction work, explained the building needed completely new services – of all types.
“There is not one piece of pipe or electrical wire from before. It’s all been replaced,” he said. “It’s been an immense amount of work and money. It will basically be like a new building. And everything will be brought up to current code, including seismic loading.”
“And we are nearing the finish line,” Jesse said suggesting an opening date in “April sometime. Every time I walk in the building it’s changed,” he said, while a cacophony of saws and hammering rang out in the cavernous building.
The large project has employed between five to six workers up to 30 at a time over the course of the two-year project.
Just as they did with the Fire Hall, they’re re-utilizing bits and pieces of the old bowling alley in design, including some of the former lane flooring turned into three, 20-foot-long tables.
The front of the building will feature the brewery, complete with beer tanks and all equipment required to create another local variety of beer and a vending area with glass doors.
To facilitate the establishment of Encore Brewing’s to-be-beer will be Brendan Hayward, the former head brewer from Bomber Brewing in Vancouver.
“He was looking for a change to escape the city and he also wanted to be a part of creating a brewery. Bomber is a great brewery. We have them on tap at the Fire Hall all the time. They win a lot of awards and sell a ton of beer,” Jesse said, adding area outdoor recreation opportunities also appealed to Hayward.
“We’re really excited to have him on site.”
Fred explained much of the brewery infrastructure is now in place and brewing is underway.
“It takes a month before you can have sellable beer,” Jesse said, noting they toured local breweries such as in Fernie and Creston to gain better understanding of what was required to do things properly.
“They were all really cool,” he said of the soon-to-be rival breweries. “It’s a collaborative industry. Jordan (from Heid-Out Brewery) keeps asking about collaborating on a beer together, so that’s pretty cool.”
“It’s nice to be finally excited,” Fred said. “It’s been a couple year slog of intermittent excitement and then, maybe dread is too big of a word, but it’s been a lot to figure out, a project of this scale.”
Adding to the excitement is community interest, Jesse said.
“We could employ somebody fulltime just to give tours. People are so excited,” he said.
Fred noted, “it is really rewarding having people ask about it.”
With construction winding down, the business of starting the business begins, including hiring staff and creating a Founder’s Club, a clever way to include the community in raising funds to help launch Encore Brewing prior to revenue earning.
Staffing will follow the vision for the restaurant/lounge as having “a more European” style of service, Jesse said.
“Instead of having a bunch of servers, people will come to the bar to order beer and their food and once their food is ready we’ll run it out to them. It will have a simpler menu than the Fire Hall has. Hand-held items and pizzas.”
They expect to hire about 25 to 30 staff, compared to the Fire Hall, which employs 40 people.
Expansive community interest in the project is where the idea for the Founder’s Club came from, Jesse said.
“It’s a kick-starter,” he said, pointing out only 100 memberships were available for the Founders Club, a number that was reached on Feb. 24.
“Even for those people who are excited about it, they are going to be shocked when we open. We’re pretty confident it will blow people away,” Jesse said.
Fred outlined a great deal of leg work was done before designing the facility.
The Fire Hall came mostly pre-designed because of the nature and charm of the building itself. “We just had to preserve that,” he said. “But here, there was no charm. It resembled a prison more than a pub. It’s been an evolution for us to figure out how to do this.”
“We’ve designed the space to encourage people to get up and walk around and interact with one another,” he said.
And it now won’t be long until Cranbrook’s newest entertainment venue is firing on all tanks.
Encore Brewing is located at 1400 – 4th Street North.
Lead image: Fred Williams and Jesse Roberts conduct a tour in the under-construction Encore Brewing. The brewery area is located behind them. Ian Cobb/e-KNOW photos