And on Southside, Country Club Brewing LLC is the latest working to join a growing scene of craft beer brewers.
Both businesses needed approvals Wednesday night that were unanimously granted by the Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board.
At VegOut, 1 E. Church St., owner Mary Lopresti has been open for sit-down and takeout vegan snacks, comfort food and coffee from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. She was unaware that the hours were limited to 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday, under a previous zoning decision permitting the conversion of a hair salon into the former Church Street Market.
Lopresti started VegOut a little more than a year ago, first as a pop-up restaurant on Southside Bethlehem with limited weekend hours, then as a food truck before the Church Street location became available.
She agreed to follow the city’s rules applied to Church Street Market barring use of a fryer and alcohol sales. She noted she’s been open to bring-your-own wine but would prohibit that if required by the city. Center City resident Bruce Haines, managing partner of Hotel Bethlehem, pressed Lopresti on that point, arguing the city prohibits BYO in corner markets. Craig Peiffer, the city’s zoning officer, clarified that prohibition applies to BYO clubs.
“I think the testimony was clear that’s not the intention of the applicant,” zoning board Chairman William Fitzpatrick said before the unanimous vote approving a special exception for the expanded days and hours of operation.
VegOut has three employees working at a time and seating for about 20.
“The most important thing to me is just to be able to serve that dinner crowd,” Lopresti said, noting that’s how she began growing her business in the city.
Country Club Brewing is planned for a former auto repair shop at 323 Pierce St. owned by Peron Development on Southside. It’s the sixth brewery being opened by Finneaus Parker, managing member of the limited liability corporation, and the second one he’s owned.
Parker likened the brewery in size to Bonn Place Brewing Co. at 310-14 Taylor St. on Southside, an established member of the Lehigh Valley’s craft brewing scene. Just to the east on Southside, Seven Sirens Brewing Co. is working to open this winter at 327 Broadway. Like Bonn Place, Country Club’s location is right along the South Bethlehem Greenway, which should draw bicyclists and other trail users as customers, Parker said.
Country Club Brewing plans a five-barrel brewhouse with four fermenters, offering capacity of about 350 barrels or 700 kegs a year, and room for up to 40 customers. The hours approved by the zoning board as part of a non-conforming use permission for the business are 4 to 10 p.m. weekdays and 3 to 10 p.m. Saturday, with no Sunday hours.
“Anybody coming into a brewery after 10 p.m. is not the kind of person you want coming into your brewery after 10 p.m.,” Parker said, noting they’ve probably been drinking elsewhere prior.
The brewery plans to open in July, dependent on securing a Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board license and federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau License, according to the owners’ attorney, Michael Recchiuti.
“We need this to get our PLCB application going,” he said.
In a third business approval Wednesday night from the zoning hearing board, Noor Alkhteeb and her husband got permission to open a deli and grocery at 300 Hobart St., also on Southside. The board awarded a special exception for the new use in what had been a beauty salon.