[caption id="attachment_229048" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] The Rail Haus has been in the works since late 2020, and now stands to have an opening in summer 2023. | PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CITY OF DOVER[/caption]
DOVER — A new beer garden has set its sights on downtown Dover, with plans to open for business and tap the keg in time for next summer.Rail Haus on North West Street will include 2,559 square feet indoors and a 10,000-square-foot outdoor beer garden. Inside, there will be 85 seats and outside at the covered patio there will be another 40 seats. Heaters and three fire pits will also be used to inspire more year-round business.With building permits and site plans secured, Rail Haus owner Donny Legans said he hopes to start site work before the end of the month, and with a target reopening of early summer 2023. Expectations are to hire around 25 employees.“This is a huge project. A beer garden is more than just beer,” Legans told Dover officials. “Wine and spirits will be served, and it offers an outdoor community space. But psychologically, I think it’s a huge win for downtown Dover, the west side of Dover and Kent County.” Legans bought the building, a former Southern States petrol plant, in 2020 for $110,000, with the hopes of transforming it into a beer garden. The property abuts the railroad track and has sat empty since 1991. Southern States decided to sell the property back in 2015, and it has remained vacant ever since.
[caption id="attachment_229049" align="alignleft" width="300"] The beer garden will have 2,559 square feet indoor space and 10,000-square-foot outdoor space, with hopes of becoming a community space for the city's capital. | PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CITY OF DOVER[/caption]
At first, Legans hoped to open the venue on Loockerman Street, the main downtown corridor, but could not find the space to make the concept work. After buying the property on 92 N. West St., he went through the state’s environmental process as one of the first steps in redevelopment.The Rail Haus will also have a 80-by-40-foot rail car on the property, doubling as a kitchen, harkening further to the site’s railroad roots. The venue will have long German-style picnic tables, as well as plans for a yard games like bocce court and ping pong. Legans hopes to install large LED television panels to welcome sports fans during football season or other major sporting events.“The idea is that every inch of the place is interactive, creating conversations with neighbors and strangers in the line,” he said. “It’s designed to have that in its DNA, so people can come and hang out.”Legans hopes the Rail Haus will evolve into a true community space, through partnerships with local gyms to offer yoga classes and welcoming students from Delaware State University Downtown, which is three blocks away. One concept he loved from a beer garden in Philadelphia he hopes to bring here: esoteric night, where students and professionals can openly talk about projects or other research endeavors. “With DSU Dover and the Air Force Base, you have a lot of young professionals, and they definitely can take time to come to a bar and do something like this,” he said.Legans said he is seeking grant opportunities to offset the costs of the Rail Haus, including applying for the Encouraging Development, Growth and Expansion(EDGE) Grants from the Delaware Division of Small Business.Other options on the table include two programs launched by the Downtown Dover Partnershipthis fall: the Retention/Expansion Assistance Program (REAP) and the Critical Improvements Program.