It’s been a full year now since Evanston aldermen agreed to negotiate a lease of the city’s former recycling center for conversion into a craft brewery — and the deal’s still not done.

Smylie Brothers, which operates a restaurant and brew pub on Oak Avenue downtown, hopes to expand into the recycling center site.

Owner Michael Smylie told aldermen last July he’s operating at capacity in his existing site and wants to expand to be able to offer wholesale distribution throughout the Chicago area.

In a response to a request for proposals to take over the recycling center, Smylie, a Winnetka resident, said the new facility would have three times the capacity of the brewery at the restaurant on Oak and would also have a taproom, an event space overlooking the beer production area, an outdoor seasonal beer garden and possibly a music venue.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz today said the city is still negotiating terms of the deal with Smylie Bros. and that he hopes to have an agreement ready for City Council review this fall.

One frequent critic of the city’s operations has claimed during public comment sessions at recent City Council meetings that environmental problems at the recycling center site may be holding up a deal, but Bobkiewicz says there are no known environmental issues with the property and that the ongoing discussions are focused mostly on how big the footprint of the area to be used for the brewery would be. 

When the council approved the lease discussions for the recycling center, Alderman Brian Miller, 9th Ward, cast the only vote against the proposal, saying he didn’t believe it was the best use for the property.

But Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said the city had been looking for a new use for the recycling center for four years and that he thought Smylie Brothers “will do an excellent job.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Microbrewery Market Saturation
    An insider at Miller HQ told us recently that the market is completely over-saturated. Four and five years ago Miller was calling into microbreweries wanting to buy them out and were told by most to take a walk. Now, with the shoe on the other foot, Miller is getting the calls from the microbreweries who want to be bought out. After hearing this from our associate, I did a brief internet search and there are quite a number of articles going back to 2014 saying just that. Fortune even ran an article in May 2016 speculating that craft beer is potentially a bubble. Here are a few links with good overviews:

    Add to this issue, the fact that COAL TAR was just found in water pipes over on that side of town and you have Smylie Brothers taking quite a risk. With the exodus of industry from the United States, there are so many spaces available and I’m really surprised that Smylie Brothers is pursuing this location based on the recent Coal Tar issue and the methane issue in that area. It’s certainly an additional risk added to an over-saturated industry.

  2. It won’t happen
    You would have to be crazy to put out a product that is 95%+ water in a location that has had as many environmental issues due to city council bungling as the James Park area has.

    I’ll put money down now — the brewery is never going in there.

  3. Methinks a great use for that underutilized space

    While I don't know all the details about this deal, I'd be curious to know why all the nay-sayers don't think that the environmental issues cannot be easily solved (or remediated)… Is the water quality issue just a simple matter of a new copper supply pipe from the street?


    Respectfully, Brian G. Becharas

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