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Bill could open door to downtown microbrewery

January 26, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

City businessman Mike Deming said a microbrewery might open in downtown Hagerstown.

Deming said Wednesday that he has a possible tenant who wants to put a microbrewery in the former Barnwood Books building on South Potomac Street, across from Washington County Free Library.

The state first would have to amend an alcohol law and give Washington County the authority to issue a state microbrewery license, allowing the holder to make and sell beer.

During a teleconference discussion with state lawmakers  Wednesday, two members of the county's liquor board requested that the Washington County delegation submit a bill to extend that authority.

Currently, more than 15 counties and cities in Maryland are allowed to grant a microbrewery license. Frederick, Allegany and Garrett counties are among them.

Charles F. Mades, a member of the Washington County Board of License Commissioners, told the Washington County delegation by telephone that Deming was interested in a microbrewery.

The liquor board was scheduled to talk in person with the Washington County delegation in Annapolis on Wednesday, but bad weather turned the meeting into a call on speaker phone with Mades and Robert L. Everhart, the board's chairman.

During a phone interview later Wednesday, Everhart said he can think of three microbrewery ideas proposed during his years on the board, but the county didn't have the authority to grant those licenses, so nothing happened.

Everhart said the current request wasn't made only to accommodate Deming.

The Washington County delegation agreed to file the bill amending the law on microbrewery licenses.

Deming's company, Demcore Development, has purchased and renovated several downtown buildings in recent years.

It obtained the Barnwood Books building at 101-103 S. Potomac St. from Vincent Groh in 2006, according to Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation records.

Barnwood Books moved to 13 S. Potomac St. this month.

Deming said he hopes the proposed microbrewery can move into the retail area of the building. He declined to name the prospective tenant.

If that doesn't work, "plan B would be another retail," Deming said.

He also hopes to renovate 22 apartment units upstairs.

Work on both projects would happen at the same time.

Deming has run into financial trouble on some of his downtown properties, including the Schindel-Rohrer building at 28 S. Potomac St., which was the subject of a 2009 foreclosure proceeding.

But he said Wednesday that he has survived those issues.

"We're fighting every day ...," he said. "We've made it through."

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