Planned opening of a brasserie, restaurant and bar in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania

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The former Pennsylvania National Guard Armory on East Bishop Street in Bellefonte is set to become a brewery, tasting room, distillery, restaurant and bar.

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Bellefonte’s evolution from a sleepy Victorian borough to a bustling destination is about to take another step forward.

An ownership group led by businessman Duane Reese paid $950,000 to buy the former Pennsylvania National Guard Armory property at 1081 Zion Road. The deal was finalized on Monday.

The Center County native’s plans for the three buildings on the 7.5-acre property include a brewery, tasting room, distillery, restaurant and bar.

“Bellefonte has had a lot of false starts, and I really feel like this time Bellefonte is moving forward. It’s really coming our way,” Reese said on Wednesday. more people go there.”

The approximately 9,000 square foot cement building that is farthest of the three from State Road 550 is expected to house the brewery. This project will have top priority, Reese said.

The tasting room is on deck. This part of the business is expected to fill the approximately 3,700 square foot building that once served as stables.

Reese next plans to develop a distillery, though details on that are more up in the air. He didn’t rule out using the armory’s basement or constructing a new building.

The two-story restaurant and bar should come last. It is planned for the nearly 2,900 square foot armory. Everyone will be locally owned, Reese said.

Live bands and entertainment, a beer garden and outdoor seating are also in his plans. About seven dozen people could be employed, if not more.

The project would be “monumental” in making Bellefonte a destination, Borough Director Ralph Stewart wrote in a statement Thursday.

“I think there’s room for us there in Bellefonte,” Reese said. “We don’t feel like we’re overloading the beer market or the distillery market. We believe that we will offer many different options to the inhabitants of Bellefonte.

Reese refrained from offering a potential opening date. Quite significant renovations are needed, especially on the building that will become the brewery.

Exterior renovations to this part of the project will aim to make the building “look like it would have in 1940, after Prohibition.”

“We have a lot of work to do with this property,” Reese said matter-of-factly.

The property sat unused for over a decade. The borough purchased the property from the state in March 2014 for over $750,000. It was about $20,000 more than the Center County government was offering.

The borough planned to use the buildings for municipal services—moving the police department out of its municipal building was the most important consideration—but this did not happen. The local government instead sold the land for about $200,000 more than it had paid to buy it.

The project would be the latest development to come to the territory of Bellefonte.

Gamble Mill, Axemann Brewery, Belle Mercantile Collective Market, two women’s clothing retailers and a bridal boutique are among the businesses that have opened in the past three years.

The Bellefonte Waterfront project – which includes plans for a restaurant, retail space, boutique hotel, condominiums and a 300-space parking lot – is also progressing. Construction is expected to begin this summer.

Reese hopes he’s not far behind.

“I can’t wait to be there,” Reese said. “…We’re really excited and grateful to have found it, and can’t wait to see how fast we can get there.”

This story was originally published May 5, 2022 1:39 p.m.

Bret Pallotto primarily reports on courts and crime for the Center Daily Times. He grew up in Mifflin County and graduated from Lock Haven University.

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