The Forest Park Zoning Board of Appeals recommended a conditional use request and a change in village ordinance language Thursday night, allowing Forest Parkers Katherine and Chris Valleau to take one more step toward opening Exit Strategy Brewing Company at 7700 Madison Street.
The retired head of the Forest Park Teachers Union and her husband, an attorney, have worked for months to open a craft brewery with a small restaurant in the former Classic Electric Supply Inc. building located just east of Famous Liquors on the southwest corner of Jackson and Madison. The property is owned by Howard Schwarzbach, former owner of Famous Liquors.
Katherine Valleau said a parking lot sharing arrangement was being forged between Famous and the pub. She also said the brew pub was working on a valet parking arrangement with a strip mall owner nearby.
Valleau said the pub would sell only craft beer and products produced on site. The menu would include beer flights and a limited, seasonal food items made from locally sourced ingredients.
The company has described the project as an “open brew house,” meaning the brewing equipment — fermenters, tubes and mash tuns — will be visible to the public.
“The use meets the character of the Madison Street corridor,” Valleau told the ZBA members. She also said the pub company has submitted a plan for refuse collection and deliveries that will not block thoroughfares.
The Valleaus sought a change in the text of the zoning ordinance to include brew pubs as allowable business in the B1 commercial district.
“The craft beer movement has been growing in the Midwest,” she said.
Next step for the brew pub is a special liquor license, which is on the Forest Park Village Council’s agenda Monday night, since there are no existing liquor licenses for breweries.
Supporters in the audience applauded when the ZBA recommended the change in the zoning code. The village council, however, has final say over any changes to the zoning code. The item does not appear on the agenda for Monday’s meeting.
“That’s the first time anyone’s clapped after an approval,” noted Austin Zimmer of the zoning board.