When City Council initially approved the Stone Brewing Co. project in December, some of Richmond’s longtime restaurant owners, including the Tobacco Company’s Jerry Cable, Richmond Restaurant Group’s Michelle Williams and Buz Grossberg of Buz and Ned’s Real Barbecue, loudly voiced their disapproval.
But now a new set of chefs and restaurant owners is upset. They haven’t been in the business as long as the initial group that was so outspoken. But last Tuesday, they took to Facebook to vent their frustration.
“I am sure that I am misinformed, and I understand things like this happen in other sectors of business,” said Lee Gregory of the Roosevelt and Southbound, “but I can’t say that I will use my small amount of notoriety to help promote the City of Richmond any longer after this Stone Brewing mess.”
The gauntlet was thrown.
Why the renewed outcry? After a few recently discovered hurdles were overcome, the council unanimously approved the latest deal to secure Stone’s new facility for Richmond. It still includes $8 million in public funds for Stone to build, in phase two of the project, a restaurant attached to the brewery.
“The city fails to realize that the local food/craft beer movement is happening, despite their dysfunction,” said Michael Hild of Anderson’s Neck Oyster Co. “City Hall just needs to get out of the way and good things will continue to happen.”
But some city restaurants and small businesses have received money.
“This is a tough one for me,” Saison’s Jay Bayer said. “We got a good amount of incentive money for opening in an economically depressed area. Not anything close to the Stone deal but a good amount of money.”
Is that misplaced guilt talking? In 2014, Inc. magazine reported that the brewery took in $136.3 million the year before. Saison has 48 seats (including the bar) to turn over each day. Even those of us with rudimentary math skills can assume it’ll take Saison a while to catch up with Stone’s numbers.
“The fact of the matter,” Owen Lane of the Magpie and Estilo said, “is that everyone in this city, going back 20 years in the hospitality industry to make the city what it is now is in competition with the city that it worked so hard for.”