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Olde Mecklenburg Brewery taps into Cornelius, LKN

Feb. 20. UPDATED 2pm. It looks like Olde Mecklenburg Brewery will put a significant operation on an industrial site on Zion Avenue formerly owned by MacLean Curtis, the manufacturer which moved to Mooresville.

It’s a nice economic-development win for Cornelius, the downtown area in particular.

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Town officials have maintained a code of silence around the key industrial property which has been vacant since MacLean Curtis moved out last fall.  It is unclear if there are tax incentives to facilitate the deal.

But Mecklenburg County tax records show the property transacted in January for around $3 million. The purchaser was WMHY LLC, a new North Carolina corporation. Its address is 4150 Yancey Road in Charlotte, the home of Olde Mecklenburg.

Craft brewery is big business in the state of North Carolina.

The “Pop the Cap” movement a decade ago helped uncork the beer industry here by removing the limit on how much alcohol brewers could have in their beers.

During the current legislative session, brewers like Olde Mecklenburg want lawmakers to change the law requiring brewers to use a distributor once they reach 25,000 barrels of production a year.

The rule mostly benefits distributors.

Craft beer is big business is North Carolina. Olde Mecklenburg owner John Marrino is a legislative donor, having given NC Sen. Jeff Tarte’s campaign $1,240, and Rep. John Bradford’s campaign $1,000, according to votesmart.org. The NC Beer & Wine Wholesalers Associaton also gave Bradford’s campaign $1,750, according to votesmart.org.

Distributors are merely middlemen between brewers and the retail outlets, like restaurants, that sell beer. Distributors are more helpful to small brewers just starting out, as opposed to the larger craft brewers.

NEW: Rep. Bradford, a Cornelius resident whose first elective office was the Cornelius Town Board, said local craft breweries create local jobs. Distributors play in important role in beer and alcohol sales, he said, and there’s a way for both of these groups to co-exist with minimal impact to each other’s business models.

“My goal is to ensure local owned craft breweries can continue to operate and self-distribute as long as they remain truly craft. I think the limiting factor should be determined by where the actual jobs are created as well as the location of the company headquarters,” Bradford said.

Marrino, an engineer by training, expanded into an old factory on 8.5 acres in Charlotte in 2014.

It is a major attraction, with not just a brewery, but a German-style “Brauhaus,” complete with high ceilings, wood paneling and soft German pretzels, Currywurst and a great selection of traditional sausages as well as fresh salads, handmade pizza, wings and premium Angus beef burgers.

The Zion Avenue site is at the northern end of a fast-changing—and convoluted—road alongside the Antiquity mixed-use development. Old houses are transitioning to offices.

Mecklenburg County land records show the property is assessed for around $1.15 million. The WMHY deal is dated Jan. 31. An Old Mecklenburg spokeswoman would not comment, nor would members of the Cornelius Town Board.

OMB, Charlotte’s oldest craft brewery, was named best brewery tour in the United States by USA Today. There are more than 3,000 breweries operating across the country — likely more than at any other time since the 1870s, according to the Brewers Association and Marrino is considered a nationwide leader in the craft beer industry.