Garrison opens new brewery and taproom on Quinpool

Garrison Brewing Co. honours Oxford Theatre history

Quinpool Road is finally getting something akin to a downtown-style bar, even though Quinpool isn’t zoned for bars.

Garrison Brewing Co. opens its brewery and taproom on Friday. It’s in the Oxford Theatre building, in the neighbouring space where the Passport Photo and Elegant Touch Hair Design used to be. The space is divided in three: the retail space, the bar, and an upstairs lounge with more seating.

Brian Titus, the owner and co-founder of Garrison, is glad to see his project finished after several months of renovation. Stripping back the walls and ceilings revealed brickwork and 14 foot ceilings.

“I couldn’t be happier with the end result,” he said.

Brian Titus, owner and co-founder of Garrison Brewing Co., spoke to media in the taproom Nov. 14.   Lucia Helder

Garrison originally planned to open the extension of its seaport brewery in early summer of 2019. But renovating the old building on Quinpool was difficult. The basement flooded with about four feet of water last week. Thursday, the day before opening, city crews drilled a giant hole in the road, right in front of the door, to fix the water lines going into the building.

What’s in a bar?

Right now, Quinpool isn’t zoned for establishments that can serve alcohol without food. Garrison’s retail and events manager, Justin Zinke, says they’re allowed to sell their beer at the taproom because they have a brewery on site. This designates the business as a brewery and taproom rather than a bar.

“Quinpool is turning a little bit into a museum street,” Titus said. “It has a very restrictive zoning that’s not on Agricola Street, it’s not on Gottingen Street, it’s not on Barrington Street. They all have different zoning.”

Since the 1980s, all restaurants on Quinpool, except for three which were grandfathered in, have not been allowed to serve drinks without food. In 2017, regulations changed so restaurants could serve two drinks without food.

The Centre Plan will designate Quinpool Road as a place for bars that can serve alcohol the way downtown bars do. Typically, bars get liquor licences through Nova Scotia Alcohol and Gaming, but Garrison’s brewery and taproom permits are issued through the NSLC.

The Centre Plan should be enacted soon, said Shawn Cleary, the councillor for the area. He said Quinpool will be rezoned, which means a bar could open on the street.

“I’ve had lots of ‘oh my god, I can’t believe this is gonna happen’ comments, but no complaints,” Cleary said.

Save the Oxford

The Oxford Theatre shut down in 2017. Many people were concerned about the iconic building being torn down and replaced with a new development.

Titus said Garrison signed a 10-year lease with the owners, which he intends to renew as many times as he can. Next door, in the theatre space, is East Peak Climbing, a new rock-climbing gym. It’s expected to open within the next few months. Garrison and East Peak are working together to make the Oxford a community space.

“This building’s never gonna go,” said Titus. “We didn’t save it, but we’re part of a process that makes sure this building stays here for a long time.”

Collecting history

Titus said Garrison wanted to celebrate not just the building or Quinpool, but Halifax as a whole. They’re asking people to send in their Halifax artifacts to put on display.

The original projector used in the Oxford Theatre.   Lucia Helder

The bar is decked out in memorabilia and designed to honour the building’s history as a theatre. The original projector from the Oxford is nestled between two seating booths. The bar has the Cuban cigar art and restaurant booths from Tom’s Little Havana, which closed this year. Garrison also acquired pews and stained-glass windows from the Christian Science Church on Inglis and South Park streets that closed earlier this year.

The Quinpool Road Mainstreet District Association is happy that a new business might draw more people into the area.

“The association has been extremely excited about it since they first learned about it months ago,” executive director Karla Nicholson said. “We don’t have any other breweries on the street so it will be a unique business.”

Many Quinpool restaurants have been serving Garrison beer for years. While Garrison won’t have its own kitchen or serve its own food, it will have restaurants from the street serve food as pop-up events. Customers are also encouraged to bring in their own takeout.

“We got about a dozen customers that loyally serve our beer,” Titus said. “The last thing I want to do is set up a business that competes directly with any of these people on what they do best.”

Other changes are coming to Quinpool. Sicilian Pizza and McDonald’s are being replaced with housing and commerce developments.

Titus said he expects other businesses and developers will see Quinpool as an investment.

Lucia Helder

Lucia Helder

Lucia Helder has interned at Maine Public and is the copy editor of the Dal Gazette.

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