It wasn’t so long ago that owning a beer distributor was one of the most enviable professions in Philadelphia. Thanks to the restrictive liquor laws in Pennsylvania, distributors had a huge captive audience of customers that were looking to throw a kegger or buy beers without the massive upcharge that comes from buying six-packs. But liquor laws loosened in 2016, increasing competition for beer distributors and nibbling at the bottom line.
We’ve seen some beer distributors close or look for less expensive digs as a result. Other distributors have looked to redevelop their own properties to either produce a new income stream and/or reduce their monthly expenses. Stone’s Beverage on Fairmount Avenue is attempting this approach, though that project was tied up in the zoning process for the last year or so, finally getting approval last month. We’re pretty sure that (the confusingly named) Society Hill Beverage at 129 Washington Ave. has something similar in mind.
Back in 2015, we told you about a plan to build an addition on top of the existing warehouse, which was to include 9 apartment units. That plan withered on the vine, but now a similar project is coming down the pike. Instead of an addition, the owners of the building are proposing its demolition and the construction of a new mixed-use building in its place. This building will have a retail space on the first floor with a loading dock, which leads us to believe the distributor will look to reopen in the new building. Like the prior proposal, the new building would also have 9 units on the upper floors. We aren’t sure why the original proposal never came to pass, but from where we sit, the new concept makes all kinds of sense and would represent a much improved use for the property moving forward.
Despite the fact that this property is located on Washington Avenue, less than a block from I-95, there has been considerable development activity in the immediate area in the last several years. Just to the east, we saw an old auto garage turn into a trio of garage-front homes back in 2015 and a real estate office get converted into a kitchen building supply/tile store the next year. In the other direction, we see four duplexes are finished at 2nd & Washington, ditto the Snockey’s condo conversion. We don’t imagine the apartments over the beer distributor will be offered for sale, but given the projects just half a block away, we wouldn’t rule it out.