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UPDATED 5:25 P.M. Tuesday, May 18
The project has been in the works since early 2007, when the Washington Post first announced plans to turn the historic Fire Station No. 1 in Silver Spring into a brewpub co-owned by the town’s own craft brewer, Hook & Ladder. Three years later, Fire Station 1 Restaurant and Brewing Co. is finally set to open on Friday — or next week at the latest.
Owner Jeremy Gruber, a retired Montgomery County Fire and Rescue captain who worked at the Silver Spring station early in his career, says he’s just waiting for good weather to finish the roof. With the roof complete and the interior finished, Gruber hopes to have his certificate of occupancy by this week and an opening celebration on Friday.
Hook & Ladder even Red Brick Station (*) has a new beer ready for the debut: Fire Station 1’s Daily Crisis, an IPA made just for the Silver Spring restaurant. The entire line of Hook & Ladder brews, of course, will be available, too, even though the Silver Spring brewer had to officially pull out of the project.
“They were involved in the beginning,” says Gruber, who’s an investor in Hook & Ladder. “It just didn’t work out.”
Hook & Ladderfounder and brewmaster Rich Fleischer says the economy played a role in the brewery pulling out of the restaurant and brewpub. “It just didn’t make sense for us to continue on the project,” he says.
Gruber may be a first-time restaurateur, but he’s surrounded himself with a “seasoned staff” of hospitality professionals. His chef, Chad Wisner, spent the past few years cooking for the Baltimore-based Erickson group, which develops and manages retirement communities. GM Michael Mountain and Wisner have been spending the last two weeks training staff for opening day, Gruber says, sometimes in the new Silver Spring fire station across the street.
Wisner’s opening day menu is posted online, and its mostly all-American focus on steaks, sandwiches, wraps, and pizza has already drawn some shrugs from locals, who expected more. Gruber says the beer program will include 12 taps and 20 bottles and will venture beyond Hook & Ladder selections. He plans to include Flying Dog, Magic Hat, Stella, Blue Moon, Sam Adams seasonal, and other options on draft; the bottle selection will mix familiar commercial lagers with offerings from Kona and Goose Island, among others. There will be no brewing on premise to start, but Gruber hasn’t ruled that out in the future.
There have been numerous challenges in getting the two-story, 180-seat Fire Station 1 ready for opening day, Gruber says. Financing, of course, was difficult in this economic environment; so was the permitting process in Montgomery County. But Gruber also had to appease local historical preservationists who made sure renovations didn’t alter the exterior of the building.
“They love what I did for it,” Gruber says.
The interior, as you can see from this photo I snapped through a window, was still in disarray this weekend, but Gruber says it’s not as bad as it looks. The place should be ready to roll in days.
* Fleischer called Y&H to say that Hook & Ladder does not produce the Daily Crisis IPA. I called Gruber back to clarify, and he said the beer is actually brewed by Red Brick Station, located just outside Baltimore. Gruber also took the opportunity to say that it looks like Fire Station 1 won’t open until early next week.