A family- and dog-friendly beer garden with fire pits, yard games and regional craft beers hopes to open next spring in Occoquan.
“We just love the area. It has a nice hometown feel,” said Jeremy Barber, who along with his business partner, Justus Frank, own a beer garden called “The Garden,” as well as “Live Oak,” a restaurant specializing in Southern cuisine. Both are in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria.
Now they want to replicate “The Garden” in Occoquan.
The Occoquan Town Council will hold a public hearing and invitation to bid at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 16, at town hall to consider offers on the use of the former Prince William County Tourism Center, 200 Mill St., which the town owns.
The town council received an unsolicited offer from Barber and Frank proposing a public-private partnership in which the building along with the adjoining property would be used as the beer garden.
Under the terms of the proposal, the restrooms in the former visitor center would be open to the public as they were the past. Meals tax revenues generated would be credited to the town for the $7,500 yearly rent.
If beer garden generates less than $7,500 in meals tax revenues, the owners would have to make up the difference. If they generate more, the town would get that, too, said Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta.
Frank and Barber are seeking a five-year lease with an option for another five years. If in the future, the town decides to sell the building and solicits bids, Barber and Frank also ask they be given the opportunity to beat the highest bid, Porta said.
“For the town, this is a really great thing,” Porta said. “It’s a way of maximizing the use of that small space in a way that could benefit everybody.”
The visitor center has been closed about a year ago because of the pandemic. Plans are in the works for a replacement, but it likely won’t include public restrooms, Porta said.
The town needs to decide what to do with the 300-square-foot building. It was working on a request for bids when it received an unsolicited bid from Barber and Frank.
“It’s a pretty innovative proposal,” Porta said.
If the town receives any other bids at the March 16 meeting, the council would delay its decision on proposals, Porta said.
Barber said they would rent the empty lot adjacent to the visitor center to be used as the outdoor beer garden. There would be no indoor dining.
They would bring in a permanent food truck with decorative landscaping or a shipping container with a kitchen and a window for service, he said.
“We might even invite guest chefs to come in and cook with a special menu for a night,” Barber said.
The service bar for the beer garden would be housed inside the building. They would put an 8-foot fence along with back of the property bordering Poplar Alley and a split-rail fence around the rest, Barber said.
They are planning for seating of up to 200 people using mostly picnic tables and Adirondack chairs. They would have pergolas, umbrellas and sun sails for sun coverings.
The menu is still in the works. “We are planning on having everything from tacos to paninis and oysters,” Barber said. “We are also toying with the idea of having an outdoor smoker to do some smoked meats.”
Frank, Barber’s partner, is the chef as well as his brother-in-law. “He comes up with all sorts of ideas on the fly,” Barber said. “The menu will be consistent but will have some fun items on occasion.
They hope to be open year-round.
“We are a family business through and through,” Barber said. “This is not a typical beer garden that is ready for frat parties. It’s more of a family-friendly environment.”
Porta said it could be a good fit.
“It’s really great for us when you can bring in businesses and restaurants that add diversity of the type of offerings you have in the town because it benefits everybody,” Porta said. “You’re bringing in whole new groups of people who then get exposure to additional restaurants and shops in the town.”
Reach Aileen Streng at email@example.com