ROXBURY, NJ – Some news that might make beer lovers in Roxbury hopping mad: The plan to open a craft beer brewery in a former Kenvil roller rink is dead in the water.

Long Valley residents Donna and Steven Ashton are no longer pursuing their dream of converting the former Kenvil Roller Rink into the home of Ashton Brewing. Instead, they are setting up shop in a former brewery in Middlesex Borough.

An informal proposal for the Kenvil site was presented to the Roxbury Planning Board in December.  A formal application was filed in April.

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“We are no longer pursuing that location for the brewery,” said Donna Ashton. “Unfortunately, we could not make it work with the landlord.”

The Ashtons were going to lease the 10,000-square-foot structure from the Gruber family, which owns several buildings in Roxbury including the Fran’s Wicker store in Ledgewood. The roller rink building,at 950 Route 46, has not been used for about 30 years.

Steven Ashton, who has been brewing beer for about that long and is a “master beer judge,” said he planned to name his beers after various areas of Roxbury.

Getting Tapped Out

Converting the empty roller rink into a micro-brewery would have been a major, and costly, undertaking. The structure would have required some significant upgrades and repairs. Ashton said the landlord was not planning to fund any of that work.

“When all the costs started coming in, in June, we decided we couldn’t continue,” he said. “We already spent a fair amount of money to do architectural design, engineering and things like that. Right after we made that decision, space became available (in Middlesex).”

Ashton said none of the blame for their decision lies with Roxbury officials. “From the very start, the local officials were extremely supportive,” he said.

He did point out that town officials wanted the Grubers to step up a bit in terms of the exterior aesthetics of the building. “They were putting pressure on the building owner to do some work on that building to make it look a little nicer,” he said.” The Grubers could not immediately be reached for comment.

Donna Ashton said the decision to abandon the Kenvil project was a tough one.

“There was so much positive support in Roxbury, we really had a hard time walking away,” she said. “We even tried to look at other locations in Roxbury. But we were a year in with trying to do a lease and it wasn’t going to happen any time soon. We had to take the opportunity to take over a failed brewery so we can start the business.”

She said a sliver of hope remains for those in Roxbury who were looking forward to the project. Who knows; if that (building) continues to sit empty, and we do well and can do a second location, we would love the opportunity to try again.”


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