(New Buffalo, MI) - A request for more outdoor seating at Beer Church has been approved by the New Buffalo Planning Commission. About 60 seats along with a small bar area would be contained in a 1,980 square foot elevated deck at the popular bar and grill on Whittaker St. near U.S 12.
Kyle Kuipers with Rockford Construction out of Grand Rapids said the elevated deck would reflect the character of the existing outdoor seating that features a stone fireplace. “It was designed to kind of continue that concept and that overall feel,” he said. Kuipers said the upper level would also contain a small roof to protect equipment at the bar from the elements and provide an area patrons can use for cover.
John Lustina and Jane Simon in 2017 transformed what used to be Water’s Edge United Methodist Church into a brew pub with seating inside the 1861 structure for up to 35 guests. Outdoor seating added last year was in response to the statewide indoor seating restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 and proved to be popular enough particularly during summer weekends to expand.
Lustina said the extended outdoor seating would eliminate one or two existing parking spots. However, Lustina said he was more than willing to extend its lease indefinitely with the city for using the public parking lot across the street to handle overflow parking.
The site plan for outdoor seating was unanimously approved in concept during a special New Buffalo Planning Commission meeting on February 17. Lustina and Simon must still obtain the blessing of the planning commission members on the actual plans for construction of the expanded outdoor seating area before proceeding with the work, officials said.
Currrently, the construction drawings provide a single stairway for moving up and down both floors. Kuipers said adding a second staircase for use by staff members only to help with traffic flow is a possibility.