Sister Lakes Brewing Company to open Town Hall event space

Published 9:09 am Saturday, November 28, 2020

SISTER LAKES — As soon as Sister Lakes Brewing Company owner Joe Morin stepped into the brewery’s new Town Hall event space, he began pointing out its various features.

“This beam came from an old barn on Pipestone Road,” he said. “This bar top is walnut from two dead walnut trees in my parents’ yard. The bar face is a bowling lane from Lakes Bowl that closed down back in 2015.”

Built using materials from the community itself, the 97-seat capacity Town Hall will soon provide community members with an event center that everyone can enjoy.

“Our tagline is ‘fostering community one pint at a time,’” Morin said. “We really believe that business should be a part of the community, and with that said, there are not a lot of meeting spaces for clubs and groups. We call this the ‘Town Hall’ because we believe it’s a space for the town, for the community.”

Formerly the brewery’s storage space, the Town Hall features a bar, a small kitchen, bathrooms, the event space itself and a backyard beer garden. Morin said the idea of an event center came to life as the brewery grew in popularity.

“The building is a horseshoe-shaped building,” he said. “We used two-thirds of it, and then this just kind of became storage. But we were always hoping we’ll be able to utilize it in some fashion. We kicked around a lot of different ideas, from putting an arcade over here, putting a coffee shop over here, putting, you know, a lot of different things. When we had as many requests as we had from people to rent private parties at our brewery, hearing it over and over and over again gets to you. I was always very reluctant to close the brewery down for a private event, so we had semi-private events. The requests and demand really built up, so we thought that with event space we could have private events like rehearsal dinners, small weddings, company luncheons, retirement parties and graduation parties or whatever the case may be while keeping the main area free.”

Originally intended to be a six-month project, Morin said the Town Hall took roughly a year to complete due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We hired contractors,” he said. “We had to have a licensed electrician, plumber and an HVAC. We had someone do the floors and some drywall, but for the most part, we did as much of the work as we could ourselves.”

In addition to event space, Morin intends to utilize the Town Hall as overflow space for the brewery when necessary.

“Sister Lakes is a heavily populated place in the summertime,” he said. “The population fluctuates greatly depending on what time of the year it is. In the summertime, we’ve got every seat in the house full. People want to come in to enjoy our atmosphere, but we have nowhere to put them, so this space will double as overflow in the summer.”

Morin said the Town Hall’s flexibility will allow it to better serve its guests.

“We’re working on a lot of different packages,” Morin said. “The key is we want to be very customizable to the event. We do have some limitations with kitchen equipment, but we want to make sure that it’s not just a cookie cutter, ‘Here’s what you get. Here’s your event.’ We’ll talk to people, find out what their event is and come up with a menu or an offering that mirrors what their event is.”

According to Morin, the venue will be ready to go next week if Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ three-week restriction on dine-in eateries is not renewed. The Town Hall is now taking reservations, though Morin does not expect much traffic this winter due to the pandemic.

“In theory, we’ll be ready to go next week,” he said. “It’s available as soon as we’re allowed to continue dining-in operations. Once dining is allowed to resume, if we’re restricted to 50 percent capacity, we have both sides available, which means we’re back to our original 100 percent capacity. Even with the COVID restrictions, it can help us out greatly by doubling our capacity. Service models are different when you have two spaces, but the capacity is there.”

Morin hopes to take advantage of the increased capacity after what has been a challenging year for the brewery.

“It’s been tough,” he said. “We have had to update our business plan multiple times. The restrictions are constantly changing, so it requires monitoring the restrictions. Our business has taken it very seriously. All of our employees are required to wear a mask. We have a screening station for employees before they walk in the building, and any vendors have to be screened. We take it very seriously, which I think the public has appreciated.”

As Sister Lakes is comprised several different communities, Morin hopes the Town Hall can be a place that brings everyone together.

“Everyone is respected here,” he said. “It takes a lot of different views, perspectives and beliefs to make up a community and I think that’s the beauty of it. Creating that space where they can come together is great. The people on these lakes tend to keep to their own lakes but having this spot here has brought these different lakes together. It’s really cool seeing people who didn’t even know each other before find out that they have neighbors and friends in common. That community aspect is what the Town Hall is all about.”