Despite economic uncertainty amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, plans are underway for a new brewpub in West Allis.
Layman Brewing will take over the current site of Kokopelli's Pub-N-Grub
, located at 6001 W. Madison St., for a restaurant and one-barrel production system, initially brewing about 400 barrels per year.
Owners, husband-and-wife-team Kyle Ida and Sarah Warran, who have been home brewing together for more than 10 years, have proposed plans to demolish a portion of the building's west side and replace it with a new brewing facility, an additional seating area and an outdoor beer garden and patio, all slated for a September or October completion.
Layman Brewing's bar-restaurant is expected be up and running sooner than that.
Ida and Warran are currently in the process of gaining possession of Kokopelli's operations from longtime owner Toni Zirnhelt, who has been training the couple to take over the business and will remain involved as a bartender at Layman.
"I've spent time behind a bar before, not much, but this is helping connect with people that we want to sell beer to eventually," Ida said.
Maintaining an established clientele will allow the brewery the creative license to roll out craft brews that make more sense for a corner pub crowd-- think less IPAs and stouts and more session brews similar to Miller Lite.
Ida plans to use his great-grandfather’s prohibition era beer recipes, which his family found years ago at their summer cabin in rural Wisconsin, to create modern recipes of craft beer in its original form.
Zirnhelt will maintain ownership of Kokopelli's intellectual property, with plans to operate a catering business, Ida said.
Like all bars and restaurants in Wisconsin, Kokopelli's is temporarily closed due to COVID-19. Although that throws a wrench in the timeline and initial operating plans, the downtime has helped speed up the approval process.
"We've gotten a lot more attention and it seems like were negotiating effectively right now between the architect and the city," Ida said.
His proposal to purchase and renovate the property, as well as plans to operate the brewpub, will be reviewed by the City of West Allis Plan Commission on March 25, with a public hearing scheduled for April 22.
Ida envisions Layman Brewing as a neighborhood gathering place where patrons would bring board games and just hang out, he said. Even during a time of social distancing, Ida isn't giving up hope on the industry and the consumers who keep it in business.
When the brewery opens, it will offer affordable pricing for its craft beer and pub fare-- pints for $4 or $4.50, Ida said.
"We're cautious, but with the way West Allis is growing and the way our business strategy is set, I feel a healthy amount of concern and that we're also good to go," he said.