Room with a view: After two years renovating what would be his most challenging development yet, Jerome Karam has unveiled Events @ The Tasting Room in the original tasting room of the Falstaff Brewery building in Galveston.
“This project was by far my biggest undertaking,” said Karam, a Friendswood attorney and developer. “I’m incredibly grateful for my team of architects, subcontractors and executives.”
The team experienced delays and cost over-runs largely tied with preserving the historic integrity of the building, Karam said.
“But after 39 years of dormancy, I couldn’t be more proud to restore history and bring back the tasting room,” Karam said.
Karam last week showed off the elegant venue and also the many Falstaff mementos residents donated to its décor, making it one of the most emotional ventures he’s pursued, he said.
Everyone in Galveston has a “Falstaff Memory,” Karam said.
“I can’t emphasize how proud I am to be the developer and owner of such an iconic building,” Karam said. “People have stopped me everywhere I go to tell me some of their relatives worked for Falstaff and what the place meant to them. This building evokes emotion when people talk about it.”
Once a sizable employer, Falstaff Brewery, 3301 Church St., closed in 1981.
At least least four developers have attempted to resurrect the old building, which was built in 1905 and changed hands several times before Falstaff closed. So, when Karam acquired the building in 2015, there were skeptics. The Galveston Historical Foundation considered the building significant. Some neighbors considered it an eyesore, however, and have advocated its demolition.
City officials had long hoped redevelopment of the 330,000-square-foot building would spur renewal north of Broadway.
Events @ The Tasting Room features two large dining halls with authentic and original tile, a conference room with an 82-inch smart TV, bridal room, and a rooftop patio with nearly 360-degree views of downtown Galveston and the Gulf of Mexico.
Karam sought state and federal historic tax credits, which come with strict guidelines and requirements to adhere to the authenticity of the building, which contributed to some of the challenges and expenses, he said.
For example, when it was time to install the terrazzo tile at the venue, Karam and crew, to meet historic requirements, had to find the exact color of the original flooring, he said. No one made that particular color anymore, requiring a custom order. Karam describes the color as “a very expensive green.” There were many other challenges and requirements, but his team didn’t stop, he said.
David Watson was the architect and Pinnacle Construction was the contractor. Ashley Cole is vice president of JMK5 Holdings, which is the development firm over Karam’s many projects.
Along with the event venue, Karam has developed cruise-ship terminal parking and climate-controlled storage with plans for a boutique hotel at the site. He expects to hotel to be complete by the fall of 2021.
“We are full steam ahead,” Karam said.