ELY – Despite numerous roadblocks, including supply shortages and construction delays, the expansion project at the Boathouse Brewpub and Restaurant here is nearing completion.While largely …
ELY – Despite numerous roadblocks, including supply shortages and construction delays, the expansion project at the Boathouse Brewpub and Restaurant here is nearing completion.
While largely ignored when people review business progress in this community, the Boathouse, one of the few eating establishments to not only survive but thrive during the past two years of COVID closures and operating constraints, is completing a expansion project that will more than double their seating capacity on the second floor.
Owner Brian Tome won’t make any promises on an opening date, but he revealed last week that the upstairs venue, which features a horseshoe bar, eight additional tanks for their craft beer, seating for about 100 people, new bathrooms, service elevator, a private meeting room, and a lounge area, is 90 percent complete.
“I want to be open for the start of summer,” he said, as he and his wife Helen gave a tour to a visitor.
“We want to do a soft opening before going all in,” Tome said. “I’ve never run two floors. I don’t know how it is exactly going to work. We have to work out the kinks and we need to square away some logistics to make this all run properly.”
A longtime Boathouse chef and Ely-area native, Tome “took a leap of faith” in early 2020 when he accepted an offer from Boathouse owner Mark Bruzek, of Duluth, to join in co-ownership of the popular brew pub downtown eatery.
Then COVID-19 hit.
“I had many sleepless nights wondering what I was getting myself into,” Tome said. “COVID briefly closed us down to indoor customers so we took sledge hammers and went upstairs and started demolition.”
The expansion required the installation of a sprinkler system in the landmark building that was built in 1905. A $73,000-plus grant to the city of Ely from the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation helped fund a water main replacement in the alley behind the establishment necessary for the installation.
Accessible by a new staircase in the front, and an additional staircase in the back of the house, the open floor plan upstairs features six-foot windows, exposed ceiling beams and a refurbished original wood floor. The original hardwood floor, put in in 1904, was restored by Hebl Floor Sanding of Embarrass.
The poplar tongue-and-groove wall boards, installed by general contractor Lenci Enterprises, of Virginia, took about three months to obtain.
“And getting plumbers up here was next to impossible,” Tome added.
The new bar equipment that was ordered last year didn’t even make to Ely.
“Some of it was damaged in transit,” he said. “So there is a delay in getting that here and installed. We made the order last June and finally received some of it in April. Our new tables and chairs were fairly easy to get, but again, some of that was also damaged in transit so that had to be sent back.”
The walk-in beer cooler contains eight stainless steel tanks, manufactured by Central Stainless, Inc. in Marshfield, Wis. Each tank holds 3.5 barrels or about 100 gallons of Boathouse beer. Brewer Joey Colarich is working hard this month to make and fill the additional tanks.
The upstairs seating capacity will be about 100 people.
“Our private meeting room, perfect for birthday parties, writing group meetings and other small gatherings, will have room for about two dozen people,” Tome said. “A small lounge area off the bar will have couches and stuffed chairs, but don’t look for televisions up here.”
“I would like to have parties up here in the future,” Helen Tome added. “A Halloween party, Christmas party, theme parties, and other events. And we’ll have a place for more live music here.”
The Boathouse has about 27 employees now and Tome said he expects to increase his employment roster by at least 12 more within the next year when he is at full capacity.
And they still won’t be done with expansion ambitions.
“We purchased the former chiropractor building next door and are making plans to relocate the kitchen and open a retail shop there,” Tome said. “We can then expand our beer brewery in the back of the building. We’ve been kind of under the radar, but we have been making progress on continuing to have a year-round destination for our community and visitors to Ely.”
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