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City wins $200K grant to assist microbrewery project

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The city of Elizabeth City has received a $200,000 grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce's Main Street Solutions Fund to help developers convert the former Hurdle Hardware building on Water Street, shown in November, into the Seven Sounds microbrewery.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Elizabeth City has won a $200,000 grant to help with construction of the Seven Sounds Brewery, Elizabeth City Downtown, Inc. Executive Director Deborah Malenfant announced Thursday.

The grant is being awarded by the N.C. Department of Commerce's Main Street Solutions Fund, and will help pay for the estimated $3.5 million needed to open the microbrewery, Malenfant said during Thursday's ECDI Board of Directors meeting.

Malenfant also shared a copy of the award letter, in which Kenny Flowers, an assistant Commerce secretary, congratulated the city on the award and explained the state will further contact the city about the grant's terms and conditions. The $200,000 award is contingent on Seven Sounds creating at least eight full-time jobs.

“We're excited,” Malenfant said of the grant award, adding it may be the first Main Street Solutions Fund grant ever for Elizabeth City. She noted the city will administer and oversee the grant for Seven Sounds.

Project developer Dean Schaan could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The Seven Sounds project has been brewing for years. Originally, Schaan proposed calling his microbrewery the Elizabeth City Brewing Company and locating it in the Fowler building on Water Street. After deciding in 2017 that the microbrewery needed a larger space with a sturdier floor for its equipment, Schaan set his sights on the former Hurdle Hardware building across the street instead.

Seven Sounds purchased the Hurdle Hardware building and now envisions using it not only as a microbrewery but also as an event space. Plans also include using a portion of the building for temporary lodging similar to that offered by Airbnb.

Seven Sounds plans to demolish the building's third floor, which will allow the company to tap into Historic Tax Credits to further reduce the project’s costs. Schaan has explained that the third floor was an addition and compromises the historic, 1940s character of the building.

Malenfant also told ECDI members Thursday that, while the grant was pending, Seven Sounds halted construction, but “hopefully we'll see some action very soon.”

Construction is estimated to take eight months, and Seven Sounds “would love to be open before 2019 ends,” Schaan said in January.

ECDI board members and City Manager Rich Olson praised Malenfant for her work on the grant, and for helping move forward a major new downtown business.

“I would like to say that Debbie worked extremely hard to get that grant,” Olson said. “There were a lot of long weekends and nights writing that.”

A report from Olson and Malenfant also estimates that Seven Sounds’ construction and inventory costs will total $3.5 million, but the company’s total first-year impact to the downtown will be an estimated $4.5 million. They based the figure on payroll — eight full-time employees plus potentially a dozen part-time workers — plus utilities, taxes and fees.

Olson also said that, while the city hasn't received the grant contract yet, Seven Sounds will have three years to use the grant.

Barring surprises, Seven Sounds will be Elizabeth City's second microbrewery. The first, Ghost Harbor Brewing Company, opened in Pailin’s Al­ley more than a year ago.

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