Denise Ford Sawadogo and her husband Leo Sawadogo have been brewing their plans for Montclair Brewery at the former Poor Richard’s space for several years. In the basement of their Montclair home, Leo already produces limited amounts of dozens of beers, a skill he learned from his mother in West Africa.
ADAM ANIK/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Montclair Brewery’s owners are still shooting for an end of April opening, even with a list of repairs and an additional two more parking spaces the town is now requiring.

But the opening date will depend on the series of improvements being done to the site. The list of repairs includes $10,000 for two glass roll-up garage door/windows, $3,000 for an exterior door, $5,000 to cut the opening through the brick wall for the window and door, $1,500 to modify the driveway opening and $5,000 for two additional parking spaces.

Leo and Denise Sawadogo have signed a five-year lease to operate the brewery in the former Poor Richard’s building at 101 Walnut St., on the corner of Walnut and North Willow streets.

The couple brought the brewery plans before the planning board earlier this winter. The plans were approved, but a parking variance was required. The brewery will have 50 seats, which under local codes requires that it provide 25 parking spaces. The Sawadogos have expanded their rear parking lot from 10 to 12 spots, which was still short.

The Planning Board granted the brewery a parking variance, on the condition that several improvements to the property were made.

“They all come with hefty price tags, unfortunately,” Denise Sawadogo said.

The couple is preparing to present details of the revised parking lot and other improvements to the planning board’s revision committee. No meeting date had been set as of Monday.

The Sawadogos still need to obtain some permits from the state, some of which are contingent on construction being finished.

The business has received approval from the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to operate, and will require a brewery liquor license from the state Division of Alcohol Beverage Control.

With that license, Montclair Brewery can produce beer on-premises, sell and distribute it and serve it at tastings. Individuals can only purchase one keg of beer at a time, but the brewery could sell more than that amount wholesale.

As a condition of its license the microbrewery must offer guided tours of its facilities, can’t serve food prepared on-site and can only serve the beer that it produces.

Patrons will be allowed to bring in food to eat, according to Denise Sawadogo. The couple is seeking to partner with Walnut Street eateries so customers can either order takeout or have food delivered to the brewery.

An Indiegogo campaign has been started to help defray the costs of the improvements. As of Monday, the campaign had netted $6,300 of the requested $10,000.

“Ten thousand dollars is not going to pay for all of it, but it will help,” Denise Sawadogo said. Of the township’s requests for improvements, she said it was a matter of, “Because we’re giving this to you, this is what we need back.”

The brewery is planning a “painting party,” inviting the community to help paint the building. The party is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, March 24. Details will be announced on Facebook. Sawadogo noted that the paint supply business Ampersand had donated the paint.

Bike and Walk Montclair is also in the process of donating a bicycle rack to put on the property. The couple hopes hope that having a bike rack will help make the site more likely to meet with the planning board’s approval.

Denise Sawadogo said they are grateful for the public support on the brewery project. They hope to have the opening coincide with the Montclair Film Festival. “We’re really targeting that solid goal,” she said.