Just over a month after announcing an expansion at its current facility, 903 Brewers announced Wednesday it is planning to eventually open a restaurant in the former Lee School building in Downtown Sherman.
“We’ve been working on this for about a year now,” Jeremy Roberts, who co-founded 903 Brewers in 2013 with his wife Natalie, said of the purchase of the building. “We wanted an old building that we could just bring new life back to, and that’s what we’re going to do with that old school.”
Roberts said the Lee School building, which is located at 1002 N. Walnut St., has nearly 25,000 square feet divided evenly among its three floors. The business is planning to begin work on the building next year.
“For as vacant as it’s been, it’s a very well-built building and it’s in perfect condition,” Roberts said. “So we’re going to take our time on it and make sure we maintain the charm that it has about it. That’s probably going to take two to two and a half years to be complete, so we’re in no rush. We want to do it right.”
Once it’s renovated, the plan for the building is to have offices on the first floor with a 15-barrel production brewhouse, fermentation tanks and a canning line. The second floor will be the planned 903 Brewpub restaurant and the third floor will be used as a ballroom for private parties and events.
“There’s going to be two different restaurants,” Roberts said. “Outside, it’s going to more of your backyard grill, if you want to come and grab a beer and kind of eat on a budget. But if you want to have a date night, you want to eat really good food — farm-to-table, locally sourced meats and vegetables — and enjoy a good meal, that’s what it’s going to be like on the inside.”
As the school building sits on two and a half acres, 903 is planning to keep the schoolyard feel outside with a playground for children and a stage for live music during the week.
“And we’ll also have our taproom,” Roberts said. “We’ll have a nice big bar like we have now, with all of our beers and experimental beers and beers we have in the works will be on tap there.”
The business plans to keep its current facility at 1718 S. Elm St. and it’s recently acquired new facility at 1720 S. Elm St.
“We just made the announcement last month about expanding to the 19,000 square feet next door,” Roberts said of the expansion that will allow the local craft brewer to more than double its number of employees and brew nearly seven times as much beer next year. “We’re keeping both buildings, but we wanted something that would really complement both 903 and Downtown Sherman.”
Roberts said part of the reason for planning the restaurant is in anticipation that Sherman voters will soon do away with the alcohol sales restrictions currently in place in the city. The current law in Sherman states bars and restaurants that sell mixed alcoholic beverages and don’t sell more than 51 percent food have to operate as a private club, meaning customers have to join the club before they’re allowed to complete their transaction. Establishments are required to scan a member’s license or identification before an alcoholic beverage can be purchased. The local option election on the Nov. 8 ballot will give city voters the opportunity to remove those restrictions.
“If they pass that, then we legally can become a brewpub,” Roberts said. “What that means is we can legally sell our product to go. It’s going to create more revenue for us, which is going to create more jobs. We could also sell and serve wine to our customers, which is going to bring a lot more people to our facilities.”
If the restrictions aren’t lifted by voters in November, Roberts said the new restaurant wouldn’t be able to sell wine and beer to go, but they’re planning to do everything else just the same.