LAKEWOOD RANCH -- A retail craft beer store, Craft Growlers to Go and Tasting Room, a business made possible by a change in Florida law this year, is moving toward a Jan. 2 soft opening at Lakewood Ranch Main Street, and a Jan. 8 grand opening.
Owner Jeanne Dooley, a 30-year teaching golf professional, has been hiring staff as workers complete renovations of a former bridal store. A walk-in cooler that will hold kegs weighing up to 190 pounds to feed 45 revolving taps in the tasting room has been installed.
"I am still hiring energetic, hard-working people who like people," Dooley said.
Customers will be able to sample beer for free in small glasses from the tap, or order flights of beer with four 3-ounce varieties for about $5.
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The store takes the growler name from the 32-and 64-ounce take-home bottles customers can have filled with the brew of their choice. Also available: pints, bottles and cans.
The Florida Legislature legalized 64-ounce growlers this year, which makes craft beer stores like Dooley's a viable business proposition.
"It wasn't feasible before," Dooley said Wednesday.
Local and regional craft brewers such as Darwin Brewing Co. and Motorworks Brewing of Bradenton are supplying the taps, Dooley said.
She plans to finalize the list of suppliers next week.
"We are all about customer service. Our staff will make recommendations and ease you into the craft beer world," Dooley said. "It will be a welcoming place that is easy to come into and sit, and it will be family friendly."
Lakewood Ranch Main Street, already known for its diverse restaurants, offers natural business pairings for Craft Growlers.
Next door, Nancy Krohngold, owner of Nancy's Bar-B-Q, 301 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, is preparing to open a Lakewood Ranch restaurant.
"It's very cool and very nice to be next door to Nancy's Bar-B-Q," Dooley said.
Nancy's, a fast-casual restaurant, will open about the same time as Craft Growlers, general manager Jim Kelly said.
"We do it fresh every day. We already do a lot of catering out here," Kelly said.
Dooley is also planning to partner with the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee's Culinary Innovation Lab across the street.
USF Sarasota-Manatee offers a beer science class, and Dooley envisions being able to collaborate on programs pairing food and beer, and to present educational classes on the ancient art of beer making.
Custom art and furnishings have been created for Craft Growlers by Amy Jones, including signage and paintings of beer, hops and taps.
Craft Growlers will also offer wine, mead, cider and root beer, and gifts and snacks, including popcorn, chocolate, pickles, relishes and notecards.
Hours will be 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 12:30-6 p.m. Sundays.
For more information, visit facebook.com/CraftGrowlersToGo. For employment information, email email@example.com.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter@jajones1.