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With Stone Brewing CEO looking on, Richmond City Council approves deal to bring beer garden to James River

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Posted at 5:48 PM, Mar 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-03 11:13:10-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond City Council voted in favor of a land transfer deal that would result in land along the James River going to Stone Brewing Co. The California-based brewery would use the land to build a restaurant and beer garden near its proposed East Richmond plant.  Stone Brewing CEO and co-founder Greg Koch attended Monday night's Richmond City Council meeting.

“It was an opportunity to give a little deeper perspective about what's going to happen and about the benefit that's going to result,” Koch said.

The city said the restaurant and beer garden will be completed in two to three years.

City Council President Michelle Mosby’s announcement prior to the vote that the council would be voting yes for the land transfer upset some restaurant owners who came out to speak against the transfer.

“I don't think it's up to the government or the city to pick winners and losers in the marketplace,” Dirk Graham, the owner of Bottoms Up Pizza in Shockoe Bottom, said.

But, several others, many of them from the Fulton neighborhood where the brewery will be located, stood up in favor of Stone.

“Stone is going to be a great neighbor, we couldn't ask for a better neighbor,” Juliellen Sarver, who lives in Fulton, said.

Koch celebrated after the vote at Southern Railway Taphouse in Shockoe Bottom.

While CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit was at the bar, Koch ordered two local beers: Hardywood Singel, and Triple Crossing Falcon Smash.

“Y'all in Richmond, you're awesome,” Koch said.

At an earlier council meeting in December, opponents of the plan said it gave Stone an unfair advantage. They balked at the idea of Richmond basically giving the brewery $8 million to help fund its restaurant.

"We feel they should have to do it on the same merits everybody else in the city has had to work so hard to get,” Michelle Williams, of the Richmond Restaurant Group, told members of council in December.

"In San Diego they [Stone Brewing] bring in about 600,000 people a year, and we’re hoping to see that same impact here," Lee Downey, head of Richmond’s Department of Economic and Community Development, said in December.  Downey said the city would eventually get the $8 million back.

Stone's restaurant and beer garden will be built after the brewing distribution center, along the Richmond riverfront near Rockett’s Landing. The city said the project will create 300 jobs, increase tourism, and revitalize the area.

Aerial view of project, from Stone Brewing Company website.

Aerial view of project, from Stone Brewing Company website.