Leesburg Commission blesses plan for new brewery/restaurant near downtown

Leesburg commissioners paved the way Monday night for a new brewery/restaurant to open its doors in the city.

Business owner John Sokol plans to open a small brewery/restaurant in this warehouse at 312 S 2nd St., located near downtown Leesburg.
John Sokol

The commissioners gave unanimous approval for a Planned Development Overlay, which gives property owner John Sokol more options in developing his business going forward than the standard Planned Unit Development designation that existed on the property.

Sokol said the new establishment, which will be located at 312 S 2nd Street in an existing warehouse, will be operated as a non-profit backing the Military Fire Police Support Association in Leesburg.

Sokol, who also owns the Great Chicago Fire Brewery & Tap Room on Magnolia Street and serves as president of the Downtown Leesburg Business Association, said he intends to completely renovate the building and property before opening the small brewery/restaurant.

This map shows where business owner John Sokol plans to open his new brewery/restaurant in Leesburg.

“It will help fund our veterans and fire and police department organizations,” said Sokol, who lives in Tavares and is a firefighter in Umatilla. “It’s a way to bring in money and put it back into the community.”

Sokol said his new facility will have a great menu but it will be different than the one he offers at his other eatery.

“It will be a unique place,” he said. “And it will add to the redevelopment of what’s happening in downtown. I think it will be a good place.”

These drawings show the design and look of the new brewery/restaurant that will be located at 312 S 2nd Street in Leesburg.

Sokol said he’s also got several ideas in mind to set the new restaurant’s building apart from others in the downtown area – starting with murals showing the flag raisings on 9/11 and at Iwo Jima.

“That would be really neat and it would fit in with what we’re doing,” he said. “It would really make the building pop.”

Sokol said he’s also applied for a city grant that would offer several lighting and landscaping options.

“That would really make that building come alive,” he said. “It sits right on the bike path, which in the long-term plan should eventually connect to the other bike paths. So I’m very excited about the project.”

Top: The outside of the new brewery/restaurant will offer a tribute to those with military, fire and police backgrounds. Bottom: The floor plan of the new establishment, which is owned by John Sokol, president of the Downtown Leesburg Business Association.

Under the Planned Development Overlay designation, Sokol also can have general/professional offices and storage uses on the site. But he will be prohibited from a variety of uses, including automotive, convenience store, rehab center (including drugs and alcohol), outdoor recreation, crematorium, gas station, thrift store, check cashing store, transient accommodations, passenger terminals, light or heavy industrial uses, stockpiling, waste-related services and other uses that could adversely impact the adjoining properties due to traffic, noise, dust, etc.

Access to Sokol’s new restaurant will be from 2nd Street and his maximum building height can be two stories, or 35 feet. The building and property also will be required to meet Leesburg’s architectural standards, with conceptual plans required as part of Sokol’s application to open the new establishment.

John Sokol, above, who plans to open a small brewery/restaurant on 2nd Street in downtown Leesburg, also owns the Great Chicago Fire Brewery & Tap Room on Magnolia Street.