Local investors planning brewpub in downtown New Bedford

By Mike Lawrence

June 29. 2016 7:01PM

NEW BEDFORD — A team of local investors is planning to open a brewpub early next spring on a downtown corner at Union and Water streets, with a $1.3 million project that will be called Moby Dick Brewing Co.

“This is an idea that some of us have been thinking about for a long time but which came together quickly over the winter,” said David Slutz, the company’s president. “We all wanted to do something that would be interesting and good for the City of New Bedford. We hope to be involved in lots of community initiatives, provide some jobs and help attract visitors to the city.”

Slutz was the CEO of Precix, a North End manufacturing company that employs more than 400 people, before resigning in January. He’s now managing director of Potentia Business Solutions, an investment firm he’s launched with three partners.

He’s also leading operations for the downtown brewery, restaurant and bar, which will seat nearly 100 at the corner location a few doors up Union from Slainte Irish Pub. The Moby Dick Brewing Co. site is diagonally across the intersection from the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and Slutz said cross-marketing talks already are in the works.

Last fall, the site housed the campaign office for Mayor Jon Mitchell’s re-election bid.

“The brewery is another significant addition to the downtown,” Mitchell said Wednesday. “That is a very prominent corner, and this new business will really stand out.”

Slutz said a Planning Board hearing for the brewpub is scheduled for July. The group is aiming to open in March, he said, pending approvals, permitting, renovations and more.

Backers of the project have strong local ties.

The investment team includes Slutz; Maureen Sylvia Armstrong, CEO of the Sylvia Group in Dartmouth; Peter Kavanaugh, owner of Brownell Boat Stands in Mattapoisett and president of La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries in Dartmouth; Richard Lafrance, CEO of Lafrance Hospitality, which operates the New Bedford Fairfield Inn & Suites and White’s of Westport, among other hotel and restaurant holdings; and Bob Unger, principal of Unger LeBlanc Inc. Strategic Communications.

Unger also is a former editor and associate publisher of The Standard-Times and SouthCoast Media Group.

The group will lease the space from longtime building owner Brian Marder. Walking through the future Moby Dick space Wednesday, Slutz and Unger talked about a family-friendly concept with large windows and outdoor seating; a small retail area for memorabilia and more; pub-style menu items; and a 10-barrel brewery operation behind the bar area.

“The brewpub’s design, menu and atmosphere will echo New Bedford’s historic whaling and fishing history with authentic artwork, photography and artifacts,” a new release from the group stated.

The project’s architect is Kevin Caldwell, of Caldwell Architectural Associates in New Bedford.

Unger said the group hopes the bar will add to a planned revitalization of State Pier and other projects emerging downtown, such as Columbus Group’s $10 million hotel and restaurant project at the corner of Union and Pleasant streets.

“We’re making a bet that it’s going to work out for New Bedford,” Unger said. “We want to be part of a restaurant district.”

A few steps away on North Water Street, Erik Bevans said business has been strong at Whaler’s Tavern, which celebrated its one-year anniversary June 16.

“It’s exceeded our expectations,” said Bevans, a co-owner of Quahog Republic, which also has restaurants in Falmouth and Onset.

Lower on Union, co-owner Jason Lanagan said The Cultivator bar is within weeks of opening its doors, adjacent to New Bedford Tattoo Co.

“The Cultivator is scheduled to open very soon,” Lanagan said. “We’re just putting the finishing touches on the construction and build-out.”

Follow Mike Lawrence on Twitter @MikeLawrenceSCT/