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‘It’s been a labor of love’: Sopchoppy brewing company set to open after long path of compromises

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 11:06 PM EDT
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SOPCHOPPY, Fla. (WCTV) - A controversial brewery in Sopchoppy is set to open within a month.

“It’s a little bit of a mess right now, I’m still getting everything organized,” said owner and Head Brewer of Civic Brewing Company Elliot Seidler during a tour of the new venue.

Seidler has been renovating the historic building off Municipal Avenue in downtown for months and is now putting on the final touches while he waits for the last piece of documentation from the state.

“It feels great. Honestly, I never thought I would be here doing this,” he told WCTV’s Katie Kaplan. “It’s been a labor of love to say the least.”

The venture almost did not happen, after some residents and local congregations raised concerns. WCTV was there during a contentious and packed Town Hall meeting last Fall, where at least one person shouted they were “ashamed” of the city council for considering changing the alcohol ordinance to allow the business to operate.

Some people were worried about noise and trash, others about the impact it could have on the safety of the community, and some about the possibility of opening the door to other things, like hard liquor or drugs. At least one church, located just feet from the originally proposed location, had multiple members show up to make public comment in opposition.

There were also many people that were excited about the idea and what it could mean for the old mill town, which currently has no restaurants within city limits and where the only place to buy beer or wine is a dollar store or gas station. Several local business owners said they were eager to see a new business that might bring in some outside visitors.

Eventually, the council voted to approve the ordinance change during a second public hearing, and a new location was chosen for the brewery to open up shop.

Fast forward eight months later, and the historical Commercial District seems to be getting a new lease on life.

“The vibe and the energy is going to be amazing,” said Mayor Lara Edwards, outside the brick building that reportedly used to serve as the town pharmacy when it was built in 1912.

Edwards is supportive of the brewery but alluded to a delicate balance for historic towns like Sopchoppy.

“We don’t want big. We want small, unique, and successful,” she said.

Seidler’s business is already making a positive impact- drawing a coffee shop and bakery that is set to open in the building next door.

Meanwhile, he has kept busy creating a place that he hopes will become a gathering spot for the community. He said he crafted the wood bar himself, his sister added the tiling and he in the process of laying pavers down in a portion of an empty lot next door that the city sold him. He plans to add a fire pit and picnic tables as well.

“I’m just happy to be in my hometown and make it a better place,” he said.

A place that one neighbor said he is excited to visit.

“I’m just happy to see something going on here and I’ll have someplace to come occasionally,” said Jim Gorman, who stated he does not drink but lives just down the street.

Seidler said he hopes to be serving his first batches of beer in early June. He plans to offer all styles and is even hoping to incorporate local ingredients like blueberry and honey into the flavor to showcase all Sopchoppy has to offer.

WCTV reached out to the minister of one of the churches that was very vocal against the brewery going in but did not hear back.

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