by Eric Ginsburg
It’s just sitting there, decaying beneath an arching overpass, on the other side of a barbed wire fence beyond the train tracks that cut downtown Greensboro in half. Ghosts of long-buried rail lines creep through part of the pavement, and an abandoned bus with the doors wide open rots in the middle of the property that once housed Carolina Tours off of Federal Place.
The back of the new Spice Cantina restaurant and the Railyard are visible on the other side of the Eugene Street overpass from the overgrown lot. It’s an unassuming stretch of land, tucked away from the rest of downtown, where vines are consuming two crumbling, roofless brick buildings. But developer Marty Kotis, who owns the property, is going to turn the site into a beer garden, possibly as early as midsummer.
Kotis envisions long, German biergarten-style tables in the center of the lot, flanked by a long indoor bar area on the property’s southern side where a building still stands. Two shells of former structures flank the property’s western edge along a high brick wall, which Kotis said he may preserve in some capacity, maintaining a post-industrial feel to the place.
There would be food trucks and hopefully nearby off-site parking, and maybe even a meadery. If all goes as planned, people would be able to walk under the Eugene Street overpass to the Railyard, allowing for greater connectivity downtown and proximity to Gibb’s Hundred Brewing. Hell, he’s even considering putting an air-cargo loader he has onto the site, allowing a band to play on a platform that could be raised 15 feet in the air.
The beer garden is just one of several booze-based business moves Kotis is planning. Pig Pounder, his brewery on Battleground Avenue, will expand into at least 3,000 square feet of the building next door, allowing for additional seating and expanded brewing capacity as they ramp up wholesale distribution. The growth will include the addition of several new beers, including a barleywine, English IPA and possibly a gose.
Kotis intends to open a related bourbon-barrel aging operation at a property he owns next to Darryl’s, his restaurant across from the Khoury Convention Center. There will be tours and a large bar area, a setup that Kotis compares to Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium in Asheville, and he plans to call it the “Pig Pounder Cellar.”
He’s also planning a second brewery, in Eden or Myrtle Beach. He’ll decide which state depending on state law; North Carolina is currently too restrictive to open another here, he said. If he settles on South Carolina, he may expand the Pig Pounder brand. Rockingham Community College’s brewing program and a large Miller Coors presence make Eden alluring, and the town’s proximity to Greensboro would necessitate a different brewery altogether, he said.
“We’re not looking to become Budweiser, but we want to be reasonably sized,” Kotis said.
All the growth isn’t surprising: There are some attractive margins to be made on selling booze, beer is experiencing a boom and there is plenty of local room for growth in the sector. Kotis is a savvy businessman, and there’s no way he doesn’t see that. He’s even added a considerable slate of beer and wine options to Red Cinemas, his recent transformation of Carousel Cinemas as part of his Battleground empire.
He’s purposefully spreading out the assets, and trying to make each one unique, rather than the consolidated model of Stone Brewing, a craft-beer giant that seriously considered opening its East Coast facility in Greensboro.
“We’re sort of a decentralized Stone,” he said.
This column will appear in print in the Feb. 18 issue of Triad City Beat under the headline: “Barstool: A beer garden, and more.”