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B & amp;O STATION Officials to mull proposal



Published: Wed, August 22, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The last developer didn't make the required investments.

By ROGER G. SMITH

CITY HALL REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Maybe the third time will be a charm for the so-far cursed B & amp;O Station.

This time, the proposal is a brew pub where beer-making, not the restaurant, would be the main feature.

City development officials were to seek council's approval tonight to make the deal.

Bill Marsteller, who renovated the old General Fireproofing and Commercial Intertech buildings and brought in small businesses, is leading the proposed project.

He would renovate the old rail station. Former state Reps. Michael G. Verich and his brother, Christopher, would move their Ohio Brewing Co. from Niles to the B & amp;O.

A restaurant also would open. Keeping the building open, however, won't hinge on the restaurant's success, Marsteller said. That's because the brewing operation is planned to expand beyond the B & amp;O.

Ohio Brewing has more orders than capacity, Marsteller said, so he is looking for another building near B & amp;O to put a larger beer-making and distributing operation.

He is confident that the brewery would succeed and support the restaurant.

Commitment: To guarantee the project moves ahead, the city is talking with Marsteller about his posting a letter of credit, maybe up to $250,000. If the project doesn't meet investment deadlines, the city would keep whatever money isn't spent on the building.

"If you're serious, show us," said Jeffrey L. Chagnot, city development director.

The city favors investment-based deals that require developers to make dollar commitments. That prevents developers from tying up city buildings without making progress.

Such deals haven't worked in recent years, however.

A year ago, a Cleveland restaurateur leased the B & amp;O with plans to open a steakhouse. The deal required him to invest $100,000 every six months for 18 months, totaling $300,000. He didn't make the investments and the city pulled the lease in the spring.

Before that, the city tried an investment-based deal with Youngstown restaurateur Anthony Saadey. Saadey didn't make the required investment in its first year either, and the city took back the lease.

B & amp;O Station opened as a restaurant in 1991 after the city spent $2 million on a restoration. The city gave National Restaurant Development Corp. of Washington, D.C., $1.2 million in loans. The company declared bankruptcy and closed the restaurant in November 1996.

Troubles: Ohio Brewing has had its own troubles, too.

Michael Verich and a partner opened the brew pub in May 1997 at a former Shoney's Restaurant on U.S. Route 422 near the Eastwood Mall. Christopher Verich was the brew master.

The restaurant experienced numerous financial problems, including lawsuits over failure to pay bills and loans and failing to pay workers. The restaurant shut down in January 1999 while the brewery operation remained open in a Max & amp; Erma's.

Marsteller is confident his plan won't meet the same fates, based on his other successful building renovations.

About 135 people work at small businesses located in the old industrial buildings he took on.

"I don't start anything I don't follow through on," Marsteller said.

The Verich brothers make a quality beer, which would be their main role, he said. Marsteller would handle the building, and the new restaurant would be smaller and far easier to run than the one Michael Verich had before, he said.

If council gives approval, Marsteller expects work to start quickly, and the restaurant could open in January, with the brewery to follow.

rgsmith@vindy.com




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