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Anheuser-Busch in talks to acquire Patchogue college building

Briarcliff College located at 225 West Main Street

Briarcliff College located at 225 West Main Street in Patchogue on May 10, 2016. Anheuser Busch could possibly purchase the abandoned college building for a future brewery with a restaurant. Credit: James Carbone

Anheuser-Busch is in talks to acquire a building in downtown Patchogue as part of a plan to expand Blue Point Brewing Co., the craft beer company the industry giant acquired two years ago, village officials said.

Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev NV wants to buy the red brick West Main Street building that is soon to be vacated by Briarcliffe College, which has announced it will close by 2018 because of declining enrollment.

The move, if completed, has the potential to boost the once-struggling village by bringing in tourists — and enhance Blue Point beer’s profile with a new downtown home.

“They want to make a destination out of it. . . . It’s a home run for us,” Patchogue Mayor Paul V. Pontieri Jr. said in an interview Monday. “It’s an exciting project if we can make it happen.”

Blue Point Brewing, currently located on River Road in Patchogue, plans to expand and add amenities such as a restaurant and tours, Pontieri said. Blue Point Brewing and Anheuser-Busch officials did not return calls for comment Tuesday.

Attempts to reach Briarcliffe officials were unsuccessful. Jeffrey R. Cooper, senior vice president for the private college’s parent company, Career Education Corp. in Schaumburg, Illinois, said he “cannot provide any information as we do not own the building.”

Pontieri said negotiations between Anheuser-Busch and the property’s owner, Swezey Real Estate Development, were ongoing and he could not estimate when they would conclude. Swezey officials could not be reached for comment.

The sale hinges in part on efforts to find new homes for Briarcliffe and two other tenants, Mr. D’s Ultimate Fitness and Flo’s Luncheonette, Pontieri said.

Dennis Forman, owner of Mr. D’s Ultimate Fitness, said he is opposed to moving his business, adding talks about a possible relocation were unsuccessful.

“There’s no negotiations now,” he said, adding he has seven years left on his 10-year lease and spent $966,000 on new gym equipment last year for his 22,000-square-foot space.

Drew Biondo, spokesman for Suffolk County Community College, said an agent representing Briarcliffe contacted the college regarding a possible relocation. “We’ve not heard back,” Biondo said. “But we have offered to assist.”

Industry officials said Anheuser-Busch’s move to acquire Blue Point Brewing and move it downtown is part of a trend of large brewing companies swallowing smaller ones to retain market share.

The brewery proposal dovetails with plans by Patchogue officials to add a hotel and attract tourists. The downtown location also would enhance the visibility of Blue Point Brewing, which led Long Island’s craft-beer industry after forming in 1998.

“We have an asset that nobody else on Long Island will have,” Pontieri said. “It becomes almost a keystone to the village itself, an iconic place.”

Maud Franklin, general manager of a potential competitor, Brickhouse Brewery and Restaurant on Main Street, said Blue Point’s relocation would bring foot traffic that would benefit all of downtown.

“It’s competition, but I love the idea,” Franklin said. “Generally, people who like to go to breweries like to go to more than one.”

Pontieri said Blue Point had been working on plans to expand the company’s existing site. He proposed the Briarcliffe site when the college announced in December that it would close.

David Kennedy, executive director of the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce, called the move a “good regional get” for Anheuser-Busch.

“Blue Point brewery is one of the biggest success stories to come out of Patchogue, ever,” Kennedy said.

— With Deon J. Hampton and Victor Ocasio

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