MobCraft Beer seeking space in Woodstock’s old courthouse complex

Ice cream shop drops interest, Ethereal Confections and Public House remain committed

A Milwaukee-based brewery, MobCraft beer, is seeking to open a taproom in downtown Woodstock’s Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House once the complex is refurbished, municipal and business leaders said.

Upgrades to the Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House are slated to begin as soon as this winter and could be completed within 11 months of the start date, meaning the renovated building could be ready for its new tenants before the end of 2022, city staff said.

While MobCraft is looking at space in the first floor of the Sheriff’s House, another potential tenant that had expressed interest, Pingree Grove-based the Milk House Ice Cream, dropped its interest in the project, Mayor Mike Turner and business owner Clint Carey said.

City officials have been working on designing and funding the Old Courthouse project for years, and in December, Woodstock was awarded $2.1 million in tax credits to help finance the project.

The Milk House first approached the city about moving into the renovated historic structure at least two years ago, Carey said in an interview, but has since invested more into its Pingree Grove. It has expanded both its seating for customers and its production capabilities there.

“We couldn’t see developing [a Woodstock store] at the same point as expanding and building onto our main location,” Carey said, adding he thinks the courthouse project is a good one and he hopes to be able open a location elsewhere on Woodstock’s Square in the future.

MobCraft founder Henry Schwartz said his company will publicly release more about its potential plans for a Woodstock location in the coming days, adding he is “super excited” to be able to speak about the possibility.

A rendering of the proposed connector building design for the Old Courthouse and Sheriff's Jail approved by the Woodstock City Council Tuesday.

But the brewery’s arrival to the project has necessitated changes to the design, which the city-hired architect Studio GWA has been working on implementing.

“A necessary component of the [tax credit] investor’s interest in the project is proof of its financial viability. For this reason, it is important that the city get rental agreements in place to show revenue potential. The introduction of a new tenant into the Sheriff’s House has brought with it numerous design challenges associated with their operation and logistics,” city staff said in a memo to the city council.

“Studio GWA has been working with them over the last four weeks on a floor plan, but the prospective tenant continues to provide new information impacting the layout. Once this is resolved, Staff can finalize rental agreements with the prospective tenants and then the initial agreement with the investor can be signed,” according to the memo.

The mayor said the brewery would be taking up space on the first floor of the Sheriff’s House part of the property. Because the brewery will not serve food, it will have “synergies” with the Public House restaurant, Turner said.

Public House remains committed to its existing footprint within the property once the upgrades are complete, officials said. Ethereal Confections also still is committed to leasing.

“We’re pretty much in design phase with them,” City Manager Roscoe Stelford said of MobCraft, adding the redesign is causing some delay but is “probably well worth it in the end.”

City Council went into an closed session last week to discuss lease contracts for the Old Courthouse property.

There is still space tor rent on the first floor of the southeast corner of the Old Courthouse property, Turner said. The city is interested in adding a tenant that serves the community in a publicly beneficial way but would also generate revenue, perhaps through “evening-oriented opportunities.”

There is also potential rentable space north of that southeast corner of the property, and two potentially rentable rooms on either side of the entrance, Turner said. There also still will be space dedicated to the arts within the building.