Holy spirits? Closed churches find second life as breweries
In this Aug. 7, 2017 photo, the Church Brew Works, a brewery operating in a renovated church, stands in Pittsburgh. At the Church Brew Works, an early church-turned-brewery that opened in 1996, patrons slide into booths crafted from pews. Breweries opening in renovated churches are winning fans but earning disapproval from clergy and worshippers across the U.S. (Credit: Dake Kang/AP.)
As churches close due to dwindling congregations and parish mergers, some are being given new life: As breweries and brewpubs. With stained glass, brick walls and large sanctuaries ideal for holding vats and lots of drinkers, churches renovated into breweries attract beer lovers but can grate on the spiritual sensibilities of clergy and worshipers.
When St. John the Baptist Church was deconsecrated and sold to Casey, Catholics in the diocese voiced their opposition, leading to the deed restrictions to stop other closed churches from becoming bars and clubs.
While the Archdiocese of Cincinnati also has imposed such restrictions, it’s unclear how much company it and Youngstown have. Limits also exist in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Pennsylvania, while the Boston archdiocese says it solicits proposals from potential buyers and screens them to make sure they’re in line with Catholic values.
Churches are uniquely difficult to renovate, preservationists say. Large stained windows and cavernous sanctuaries are tough to partition into condominiums. Historic landmark protections can bar new owners from knocking down some churches, leading them to sit empty and decay.
But the same vaulted ceilings that keep housing developers away from churches also lend them an old-world air hard to replicate elsewhere, making former houses of worship particularly suitable as dignified beer halls. …