Front Street Brewery transforms third-floor event space into The Tap Room

The third-floor Tap Room at Front Street Brewery overlooks Front Street in downtown Wilmington. (Port City Daily/Courtesy photo)

WILMINGTON — On June 1, Front Street Brewery (FSB) blew out 26 candles, celebrating more than two decades as Wilmington’s first craft brewery. It’s also ushering in the transformation of what was once its third-floor event space, the Beam Room. According to public relations manager Ellie Craig, The Tap Room at Front Street Brewery, which opened last weekend, will better serve the public. 

“This will help cut down on our wait times during peak tourism season,” Craig wrote to Port City Daily.

Open weekends only, diners will have more seating options than FSB’s patio, its first-floor bar and dining room, and second-floor seating area in the brewpub. The 3,000-square-foot taproom is outfitted with eight communal tables and bench seating and operates as counter-service only. 

“We recently conducted a massive overhaul of our entire draft system, with enhanced technology and equipment,” Craig explained. “In doing so, we can now offer our patrons all of our beer selections in the taproom, as well as several wine selections, and a few of our award-winning appetizers.”

The Tap Room’s food menu is condensed to six appetizers. It will serve people looking to get in and out quickly with a light bite and sip, or who need a place to wait before being seated at a table. “Our guests’ experience is the most important aspect of our industry,” Craig said. “[W]e are enhancing that experience for them.” 

The Tap Room menu offers six appetizers, all FSB brews, and wine, and operates during weekends only. (Port City Daily/Courtesy photo)

Craig said the change from the Beam Room to The Tap Room is a residual effect of Covid. Whereas the third floor of FSB used to pencil in upward of 200 events a year, the pandemic wiped the calendar clean. Up until mask mandates and capacity limitations lessened a few weeks ago, FSB wasn’t booking events. Instead, Craig said they used the space to accommodate an influx of diners under social-distancing measures.

“When the opportunity arose to allow more patrons indoors for eating and drinking, when Governor Cooper lifted the restrictions on capacity, we tried to get creative about how to use the space best,” Craig added.

Craig said for now the restaurant doesn’t have plans to book The Tap Room for large-scale events. It may reconsider in the second part of the year as holiday parties become top-of-mind. However, it will add live entertainment. Capacity therein will swell to 125 with standing-room space. (Its first night of live music will take place Sunday, June 25, with local band Regulation Larry playing 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.)

Mainly, The Tap Room will help refine operations. Craig said FSB faced back-of-the-house staffing shortages as of late, another aftereffect of Covid. “More applications have just begun rolling in,” she revealed. “Extended unemployment benefits are most likely a factor.”

She said FSB has assigned team members to shift-manager positions and put in place key holders to help maintain efficiency in front-of-the-house. They even designated one person to handle all to-go orders, which saw an uptick over the past year.

“We are currently focused on getting our guests’ experience dialed in with this new business model in place,” Craig said. “Once we get through the busy summer season, we will discuss ways to continue to utilize the taproom as a team.”

The Tap Room is open 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays, and noon to 8 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

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