Gizmo Brew Works, a Raleigh-based brewery, is coming to Chapel Hill.
The taproom will fill a vacant space on E. Franklin Street across from Bandido's Mexican Cafe. The building housed the Ramshead Rathskeller restaurant, affectionately called “The Rat,” until it closed in 2008 due to the owners’ failure to pay taxes.
Since then, multiple developers have unsuccessfully tried to reopen the restaurant, including a Wilmington developer in 2011.
Bryan Williams, one of Gizmo’s owners, said the Chapel Hill location does not have a firm opening date yet, but his best estimate is May.
“There’s a lot to learn about the history of that location in Chapel Hill, and we’ve been hearing from a lot of alumni who remember going to the Rathskeller," he said. "And they’re really excited to see something get back in there because it really was an institution to the Town, and it’s been sitting empty for so long."
Elinor Landess, the interim director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, echoed Williams.
“This space is beloved by Chapel Hill, so we’re thrilled that we’ve got someone going in there, and someone with a great reputation like Gizmo I think will be fantastic for the space,” she said.
Gizmo started in 2013 as a very small brewery and has grown steadily since then, increasing from 200 barrels in annual sales to 2,000 in 2018. Williams said he hopes to follow up the opening of the Chapel Hill taproom with the opening of a much larger production facility in or near North Raleigh.
Williams said the Chapel Hill taproom will have 50 taps and will not have a kitchen but will sell pre-packaged foods. He is interested in partnering with other local restaurants as well.
In order to go through with the lease, the landlords had to renovate the space to bring it up to code, including lowering the floor. Williams said this left the space essentially gutted, but it will allow Gizmo to personalize the space.
Landess said that while downtown Chapel Hill does have other breweries, Gizmo may attract a different audience.
“We have our own downtown brewery here currently in Top of the Hill, but having another space will be fantastic and I think it’ll bring a more mature crowd to the east side of Franklin Street and add another destination for locals or older students who are looking for a bit of a different vibe that the taproom environment brings,” she said.
Landess also said Gizmo will support Chapel Hill’s art scene.
“The other thing that I’m thrilled about is the inclusion of live music that they’ll have carrying over from their Raleigh space to their Chapel Hill taproom because downtown Chapel Hill has long been known as a destination spot for a thriving live music scene,” she said.
Williams said he’s not sure how many people Gizmo will hire since the new location does not have a firm opening timeline. However, he is excited to become part of the Chapel Hill community.
“We really hope to be welcomed into the community and be seen as one of the go-to spots to meet with friends, check out local live music and, of course, watch UNC basketball and football games,” he said.