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'Naivety,' red tape slows brewery's construction



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Coca-Cola Market Development Manager Terry Swailes and 51 N. Broadway Owner Don Gindhart go over where to place product in the soon-to-be finished restaurant. Photo by G. Ouzounian (click for larger version)
June 13, 2012 - The construction work is underway, trucks pull in and out yet the "open spring 2012" sign still hangs in the window.

Spring is over and the 51 North Brewing Company, located at 51 N. Broadway in downtown Lake Orion, is still not open. Owner Don Gindhart tacked the problem up to a number of things including simple rookie mistakes.

"I think it's a combination of things but part of the problem is definitely us," he said. "There are a lot of procedures that have to be followed and completed to get to the next goal. At our first planning commission meeting, we were completely unprepared. Our presentation was horrible and it cost us a month.

"When you make a slip like that it costs you a month to begin with but things just start cascading."

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The commission only meets once a month, meaning a denial of any kind costs business owner hopefuls time if they cannot hold up to the strict regulations. However, Gindhart also said his company made a mistake in hiring an inexperienced, young architect who he said seemed to have bit off more than he could initially chew.

"He's a younger guy who was hungry to prove himself and he said he could do a lot of things that he couldn't end up doing," said Gindhart. "He drew beautiful stuff - everyone has seen the concepts and loved them - but when we got to the planning commission he said we would be fine. We ended up having documentation problems and we got blown out of the water."

Besides simple mistakes and young professionals, Gindhart added having problems with the strict rules and terminology of local government and noted Lake Orion was not alone in these procedures. One such issue arose after Gindhart used white out to cover an incorrect address on a liquor control form. The Michigan Liquor Control responded by taking his license away for a time after rejecting the altered form.

"Everything has to be perfect," he said. "It's truly amazing. You have to be perfect or you have to pay. You pay in time, fees for lawyers, fines - you just pay and pay.

"It's just naivety. I thought I could do things faster than what it turned out to be and I think this state might not be as friendly as others but it is what it is. Lake Orion is probably no worse than anyone else out there in the state of Michigan."

Yet despite the setbacks and bad news, Gindhart remains upbeat as his brewery now enters the building phase of its construction. Small-scale demolition was required to bring the former garage/office building up to standard for the brewery/restaurant and while the construction team said the concrete beneath the building was the hardest they ever encountered, all that's left is to build.

"Oh my god am I excited," said Gindhart. "Every day is closer to the vision and I cannot wait to get this place open and be a positive influence on this village. It's going to be great for everybody."

The grand opening is planned for August - just in time for Dragon on the Lake - though several soft openings will begin at the end of July.

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