Big Oyster Brewery eyes expansion
LEWES — With business booming, Big Oyster Brewery is looking to expand its brick-and-mortar operations by buying property across the street.
The Sussex County Council approved rezoning a 0.78-acre parcel on King’s Highway, owned by the First Baptist Church of Lewes, from agricultural-residential (AR-1) to heavy commercial (C-3) on Dec. 1. The rezoning paves the way to sell the land to Fin’s Hospitality Group, which owns and operates the brewery.
There are two buildings on the property – the church itself is on a nearby parcel – and one will be reused for restaurant and brewery operations. The multipurpose building will be converted to relocate Big Oyster Brewery’s operations, giving the brewery room to expand seating in the main building.
“Distribution is up 33%, so I need the extra facility to do my canning next door,” said Jeff Hamer, who owns Fins Hospitality Group, during a Sussex County Planning and Zoning public hearing last month.
Big Oyster Brewery first started brewing beer in June 2015 as an in-house brewery at Fins Ale House on Coastal Highway in Rehoboth. Within a year, talks about expansion were underway, and eventually the brewery opened the doors on a 6,000-square-foot facility at 1007 Kings Highway. Fins restaurants in Berlin, Md., and in Bethany Beach serve limited Big Oyster beer on tap.
In May 2019, Fins Hospitality Group bought 3 acres of land behind Big Oyster Brewery with aims to expand parking and storage. But in a sign of the times, Hamer said that eventually was turned into an exit walkway to improve social distancing within the restaurant due to COVID-19.
With buying the church’s property, it would also “change the pedestrian and vehicular circulation” with adding more possible parking spots, according to attorney Ring Lardner, who represented the church in this matter. Now, there is only parking behind the brewery.
Big Oyster Brewery also plans on expanding outdoor seating to give it a more “backyard” atmosphere, according to plans submitted to Sussex County officials.
The First Baptist Church will take the proceeds of the land sale to construct a new church sanctuary on another parcel.
By Katie Tabeling