You could argue that if every Crossfit gym converted into a craft beer brewery, there’d be a lot less pain and a lot more gain in the city, and less weight to lift, if maybe more around the hips.
We’ll get to see if that proves true, as West Palm Beach Brewery & Wine Vault, under construction downtown at 332 Evernia St., is scheduled to open Oct. 1.
John Pankauski, a West Palm Beach probate litigation lawyer with a Peabody, Mass. accent, estimates he’s investing $1.8 million in the venture, which will include craft beer brewed on premises, a wine vault with over 12,000 bottles, and a Tuscan open kitchen serving a mix of healthy and comfort foods.
A construction crew has been getting a workout in the former gym, building a bar, brewing and dining areas, and preparing to replace the aging storefront facade with hurricane-proof glass windows that will open “so we can bring the outside in,” he said. Brewing tanks are lined up and waiting to be put in place, and Pankauski is interviewing brewers and executive chefs.
He’s looking for a Nantucket meets Napa atmosphere, he said. “I want you to feel comfortable, at home. I’m not going with an industrial feel” or with a dark woody look like many breweries have. “I’m going for something a little more upscale.”
The competition is already lining up. Accomplice Brewery & Ciderworks is carving out a niche at 1023 N. Florida Mango Road and Steam Horse Brewing is scheduled to open this fall at 1500 Elizabeth Ave. in the city’s Warehouse District complex, both across Okeechobee Boulevard just south of downtown. Dixie Grill and Brewery, 5101 S. Dixie Hwy., opened last year in the Dixie Grill & Bar.
The more the merrier, Pankauski said. “I think that’s a strength. With craft beer, that just helps West Palm Beach, if you have a few places to go to.”
He’s doing something different, by adding premium wines, most of them kept in temperature- and humidity-controlled storage.
The menu will include pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven, farm-to-table ingredients, roasted seasonal vegetables, salads, and “the best mac and cheese in town,” as well as ribs and smoked Texas brisket a few days a week.
Beers will sell for about $5-$7, wine will go for about $8-$12 a glass or $20-$35 a bottle, entrees will average about $15.
A novice at the restaurant business and a lawyer by training, Pankauski has been a wine and beer enthusiast for years, and “ever since I was a little kid in Peabody, watching my dad read the Wall Street Journal and Forbes, I wanted to own a business,” he said. “This is my chance to merge all those things.”