GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — One of downtown Greensboro’s most popular restaurants and breweries, Natty Greene’s Brewing Company, is expanding.
Natty Greene’s unveiled its plans Thursday for Natty’s Brewhouse Pavilion, a new single-story brewery that it plans to build not far from its current location on South Elm Street. It will feature an interior brewhouse space with open-air seating and bar areas covered by a roof.
“Basically, where our patio is now all the way out to the park will be the building,” said Chris Lester, co-owner of Natty Greene’s alongside Ashleah Lester. “… We’ll have some new landscaping, new pavers, and then the park, the little ‘knuckle’ I call it, will be where we have the beer garden.”
Ashleah Lester added, “It’ll all kind of blend together is the plan. We’ll have the patio, and it’ll grade down into the brewery area, and then that’ll kind of grade into the beer garden area, so it’ll all feel like it’s all together.”
The Lesters say they’ve been able to make multiple upgrades to the restaurant with this addition serving as “icing on the cake,” especially after weathering ups and downs over the brand’s nearly 20-year history.
“We’ve been through some really difficult times, [like] most people in our industry, in the hospitality industry, over the last three years,” Chris Lester said.
In June 2019, Natty Greene’s opened a brewhouse right across the street from the Greensboro Coliseum, which opened up the opportunity to begin distributing beer across the Southeast. Months into the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastating impacts it had on restaurants and bars across the country, the company was forced to shut down the Gate City Boulevard operation in October of 2020 with Natty Greene’s Brewing Co. LLC filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Oct. 16.
“The industry kind of shifted and we had to pivot,” Chris Lester said.
The pandemic and the changes in the industry led the owners to shrink distribution back down to the Triad, brewing about 300 barrels a year in-house, and SouthEnd Brewing Company helping to brew another 300.
“As we were doing this over the last two or three years, we realized we really wanted to bring our brewing back in-house and do everything ourselves,” Chris Lester said. “So, we started looking at locations to do another brewery, a small brewery, just to handle the production here at Natty Greene’s.”
Their lightbulb moment was realizing that they could build on the area that was being used as a parking lot. They added onto that land by buying nearby property owned by North Carolina Railroad.
“I think we’ll add employees probably 75 or 80 employees now at Natty’s once this is up and running,” Chris Lester said. “We have an investment of $2.5 million, so it’s quite an investment for my wife and I. We’re excited about it.”
The owners say the added space will allow Natty Greene’s to bring all production back in-house and double their capabilities. They hope to have the new brewery open in March.