By Molly Pendergast
Dave Longbottom was born with a passion for beer.
Up until this year, however, Longbottom had never left the customer’s side of the bar. His new business venture, Flora Hall Brewing, will incorporate an all-in-one craft brewery, kitchen, tap room and beer shop.
His said his team is “sincerely hopeful” that Flora Hall will open late October.
The brewery is settling into 37 Flora St., a building with a rich history. Built about 90 years ago, it originally housed an automobile garage for the Welch and Johnston Company.
From interior remodeling — such as new stairs built out of welded steel — to choosing beverages for the cocktail menu, the historic significance of the building has been key to creating Flora Hall Brewing, explained Longbottom.
Even the name Flora Hall – inspired by historic places like Queen’s Hall on Bank Street – was chosen to echo the past.
Longbottom plans to use the building to brand the business, and brand the beer.
“My intention and strong desire is to put some kind of heritage plaque on the outside of the building that reflects its original use,” he said. “It reinforces part of the history and gives the building a sense of place in the past.”
With several new breweries opening their doors in last few years, Ottawa has been nurturing a growing craft brewery community. “In terms of quality, we’ve got great quality beer and it’s only going to continue to expand,” said Longbottom. “People are abandoning the big generic brands and wanting hand-crafted local stuff.”
Flora Hall will be joining a vibrant group of new businesses in the north Bank Street area. Moo Shu Ice Cream and Kitchen was opened by Liz Mok in the summer of 2016, serving gourmet small-batch ice cream in a variety of unique flavours. She said the community has reacted well to the business, and notices the area gaining popularity as distinct new shops and restaurants open.
“Cool neighbourhoods invite more people into the area and you never want to be the only ‘cool’ business,” she said. “It’s always exciting to see other businesses joining you.”
Christine Leadman, executive director of the Bank Street Business Improvement Area, said the new businesses in the area may be leading Bank Street back to its roots. “Let’s say that it will get back to its prominence, because Bank Street was always the prominent street in the city of Ottawa,” she said.
Longbottom said he agrees that businesses like Flora Hall and Moo Shu are crucial in keeping the centre core of the city alive.
“One of the things that I was happy to find when I started this project is that the City of Ottawa was getting more receptive to this type of business in the middle of town,” he explained. “The zoning has been expanded in the city to allow these small makers and producers to exist, and that is what it takes to maintain vitality in the centre core.”
According to Longbottom, the goal of Flora Hall is to create a community space.
“The team is all here to create something unique and special for the people of Centretown and beyond, to come and celebrate their daily life, monumental events and everything in between,” he said.
Flora Hall will bring new life to the once abandoned 37 Flora, and Longbottom wants it to stay that way.
“My hope is that Flora Hall Brewing is still operating when I’m gone. That’s what we’re trying to do– build a lasting place for people to gather.”