District Tap eyeing expansion into downtown Indianapolis

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The owners of north-side bar and restaurant The District Tap want to open a location downtown at 141 S. Meridian St.—but their plans have been complicated by a proposed patio door.

The site in question, at the northeast corner of South Meridian and Georgia streets, has been vacant since Chicago-based Broken English Taco Pub closed its restaurant on Dec. 31 after a 13-month run. The six-story building also houses logistics company Spot Freight, piano bar Howl at the Moon and condos.

Michael Cranfill, a real estate broker who owns The District Tap with partner Bob Kort, is enthused about the 7,500-square-foot Broken English space, which occupies a portion of the building’s ground floor.

Cranfill, who also owns the recently opened Cholita Taqueria and TikiTiki Lounge in Broad Ripple, anticipates investing $2 million to renovate the South Meridian space as a second location for The District Tap.

“I’ve always believed in this location and followed it for a long time,” Cranfill said of the space. “We want to move forward. We want to make this investment. We think it’s good for downtown.”

The space, Cranfill said, is in the perfect spot to lure customers who come downtown for Indiana Pacers and Indianapolis Colts games, as well as conventions and other downtown events.

The new eatery would mirror The District Tap’s existing site at 3720 E. 82nd St., which opened in 2014 and serves a variety of local and regional craft beers along with a full menu of entrees, burgers, sandwiches, salads, sides and desserts.

But it’s not a sure thing yet. The District Tap is holding off on signing a lease while it works through an issue related to a proposed patio door. Cranfill wants to create a door that would connect the interior of the restaurant to its Georgia Street patio. 

“I believe that’s going to be a necessity for us to be able to compete,” he said. “It will materially affect the potential of that business.”

 Currently, the only way to access the patio is from outside the restaurant space.

“It just doesn’t flow, from a functionality standpoint, and it feels completely cut off from the rest of the restaurant,” Cranfill said.

Because the building is part of Indianapolis’ historic Wholesale District, exterior modifications to the structure must be approved by the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission.

The building, built in 1911-1912, was designed by architects Bernard Vonnegut and Arthur Bohn. It originally housed Hibben, Hollweg & Co., which at the time was the city’s largest wholesale dry-goods firm.

Cranfill and his architect have shared their drawings of the proposed work to IHPC staff, which is recommending denial of those plans, said Andrea Watts, spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development. The IHPC is part of the DMD.

Staff recommendations are not binding, and it will be up to the IHPC’s board of commissioners to make a decision on Cranfill’s plans.

Cranfill said he plans to submit the documents necessary to get the issue on the agenda of IHPC’s April commission hearing. That meeting is scheduled for April 3.

In the meantime, Cranfill said he’s optimistic that the issue can be resolved in a way that respects the property’s history.

“We believe there’s a compromise that can hopefully be reached,” he said.

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