Less than two years after closing his brewery in Faribault, an entrepreneur is getting a second chance in St. Paul with the help of $695,000 in public financing.
The city of St. Paul plans to complete the sale Monday of the decommissioned Fire Engine House No. 10 to Travis Temke, who plans to restore the building and open a taproom there.
Temke’s previous enterprise, F-Town Brewing Co., also received public financing, but it closed in 2018 after about three years in operation and was liquidated to pay off debt.
Last year, Faribault and Rice County wrote off remaining loan balances totaling more than $100,000 after the liquidation — which prioritized debt owed to First United Bank — failed to make them whole, documents show.
The Rice County attorney’s office had negotiated a settlement in which Temke’s MOE Craft Company agreed to pay $14,500 of its $50,000 loan, according to a May 2019 memo from Joy Watson, executive director of the county’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
When MOE failed to pay, the county sued to collect the money. The suit was dismissed in March 2019 “because there was no remaining collateral with which to collect the debt, rendering the debt uncollectable,” the memo said.
St. Paul officials say they are aware of Temke’s previous financial troubles, but that this new venture has no involvement with F-Town Brewing or its debt.
“We are looking forward to closing the sale of Fire House 10 in the coming weeks,” Hannah Burchill, spokeswoman for the city’s Planning and Economic Development department, said in a statement. “The repurposing of Fire House 10 moves this building back onto the tax rolls and provides the community another small business for work and enjoyment.”
In response to an e-mail request for comment, Temke wrote, “We are excited to complete the historic preservation of Fire Station #10 and to provide further public purpose including new jobs within the City of St. Paul.”
Temke initially planned to renovate the firehouse, located at 754 Randolph Av., and open a taproom, restaurant, banquet hall and coffee shop in 2019. But historic designation, environmental analysis and financing challenges delayed the sale, said Council Member Rebecca Noecker, whose ward includes the firehouse.
Those delays led to more public money for the project. St. Paul initially planned to provide $445,000 in loans and a grant; after Temke lost some of his financing during the historic designation process — which the city required — the city stepped in with additional money.
According to Burchill, the $695,000 package includes a $220,000 forgivable seller’s note, $225,000 in sales-tax funded Neighborhood STAR money, a $200,000 CDBG loan and $50,000 in city fire sprinkler system financing.
Even with the additional financing, Noecker said, the taproom proposal is still less expensive for the city than 11 other proposals for the site. And there are strings attached: Temke must hire low-income people and people coming out of incarceration, Noecker said.
“I’m always looking to make sure we’re getting the best possible deal,” she said. “In this case, even as we continued with negotiations and ended up needing to put additional public dollars into it as we went along — which also isn’t unusual as you get into the details of historic projects — it was still the best financial deal of any of the 12.”
The brewery is expected to open in early 2021, she said.
The St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) awarded tentative developer status to MOE Craft Company in 2017. A new entity, 754 Randolph, LLC, would own the property.
Neighbors raised concerns at the time about the traffic, noise and parking problems the brewery could bring to the site.
Meghan Redmond, a Fort Road Federation board member, said at an early community meeting about the project there were few details about how the city selected Temke’s proposal for the site, and what his plans entailed.
“Ultimately, I really want to see it redeveloped,” she said. “If this is the path that it’s going to go on, then it’s just a matter of really tracking how to alleviate any issues and make sure that it is in line with what fits with the neighborhood.”