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Old St. Pete Taco Bus lot to become Grand Central Brewhouse

The newcomer will open with a taproom, beer garden and restaurant next year.

ST. PETERSBURG — The shuttered Taco Bus lot next to Dog Bar on Central Avenue is slated to take on new life. Construction began there Tuesday on the latest bay-area craft brewery, the Grand Central Brewhouse.

Kevin Milkey always dreamed of opening his own brewery. After retiring as the executive vice president of local insurance company ASI, Milkey knew it was finally time.

“The plan all along was to find a place to rent,” Milkey said. “But I did not see a thing that was quite right.”

By chance, he drove past the shuttered Taco Bus and its “for sale" sign in downtown’s Grand Central District. Milkey closed on the sale last fall, purchasing the lot at 2324 Central Ave. for $860,000, according to property records.

Then came months of planning: working with architects, securing permits and finding a lead brewer.

Now Milkey has much of that figured out. On Tuesday morning, Mayor Rick Kriseman, Milkey, lead brewer Tyler Singletary and other stakeholders dug shovels into the lot’s dirt to officially break ground on the brewery’s construction.

Milkey said he plans for a summer 2020 opening. Construction will take at least eight months. Milkey also has plans to run the majority of the businesses electricity on solar power.

The planned two-story 10,270-square-foot brewery also includes an adjacent restaurant on the lot. The buildings will be brick with an industrial feel Milkey says will fit into Grand Central. In between them will be an open-air beer garden to accommodate 375 people. The taproom will have 250 seats inside and out on its second-level terrace.

While Milkey and his team will operate the brewery, he plans to rent the restaurant space to another operator.

“There’s been a lot of interest,” he said, “but nothing has been nailed down just yet.”

He said whatever vendor he chooses will have a menu that includes typical pub food — burgers, pizza, brats.

As for the beers? Milkey is already planning for lagers and a full spectrum of pale ales. Everything will be brewed on site. There will be 16 brews in total, including IPAs, pale ales, porters, stouts and funky, sour options.

In addition, the brewhouse will use European beer tank technology to pour brews straight from its tanks. According to the release, the tanks “hold high-strength bag liners with a self-cooling, bag-in-tank system,” which allow for fresher beer and a longer shelf life.

“The craft beer community has been very supportive,” Milkey said. “They’ve all been willing to meet with me to talk about brewing and answer questions.”

Neighboring business owners — including the fellow brewers from Right Around the Corner — came to celebrate the start of construction Tuesday.

“We’re just really excited to get started,” Milkey said.