Robert Guercio has been investing in downtown Lafayette businesses for years, but he desired a community development project with sustainability at its core in the wurst (pun intended) way.
Guercio is one of four owners of the Wurst Biergarten, which they hope to open in the heart of Jefferson Street around the new year. The beer garden will be arranged around an unusual centerpiece: a repurposed ship container from which beer and bratwurst will be sold to visitors. There will be outdoor seating and a market of vendors hawking artwork and other food. Future plans call for a performing arts stage.
“It will be the happiest place in Happy Town USA,” Guercio said of his new venture, commenting on the Wall Street Journal’s poll that listed Lafayette as the happiest town in America. “But we’re the ‘Wurst.’ ”
Guercio, who spearheads the project with Carey “Cue” McCue, Donny Landry and Keith Stokes, has a background in community development and sustainability projects. He found the empty lot at 537 Jefferson St. intriguing. The lot was primed for a condo development, but infrastructure proved too costly, he said.
When he met McCue, who spent time working with the U.S. Army’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation Programs in Germany, they began hashing out the idea of a beer garden, a long-running tradition in Germany.
“We brainstormed and did market research,” Guercio said. “The trend now is for a beer garden, following on the heels of the craft beer movement.”
Guercio believes the Wurst Biergarten will operate like a “hybrid of a sustainable market,” much like the French Market in New Orleans. It will be open six days a week, and its market behind the restaurant will showcase local artists, farmers and chefs.
“We already have 80 vendors interested,” Guercio said of the market. “It’s all about multi-functionality.”
The beer garden is located next to Parc de Lafayette with its performance stage and water fountain that’s ordinarily used only during ArtWalk and Festival International. A wall that cut off the park from its neighbors was taken down, which Guercio sees as symbolic.
“Walls are coming down,” he said. “The two spaces work well together.”
McCue said the project is “really heavy on nature and the outdoors.”
Tables will be scattered around the property for outdoor dining and beer imbibing. The future performance stage that will be located in the back with the vendors will offer a venue for music, theater and poetry slams, McCue said.
“I’m not going to be happy until I see ‘Macbeth — Shakespeare in the Park,’ ” McCue said.
Jackie Lyle, a Lafayette performing arts consultant said the creation of “a flexible, alternative venue is welcomed because our artists, our promoters and our presenters need more facilities. The plan makes sense, and I can’t wait to see it in action. It’s a great gift, and I admire him for doing it.”
German foods and beer will be served, of course, such as Bavarian pretzels, brochen bread from Poupart’s and three types of sausage: a spicy Cajun, a blended white and a beer bratwurst. Eight beers will be on tap, both domestic and craft brews made in the German tradition. In the future, more beers will be added.
“Our focus is to do what no one else is doing,” Guercio said of the German lineup. “We don’t want to duplicate what others are doing.”
Pop-up dinners and special events are welcomed, he added, with the focus on nonprofits or entrepreneurs who can’t afford special-event permits and venues.
“It’s important for us to provide a go-to space for nonprofits, to create a circular economy,” Guercio said. “Part of our mantra is eliminating money as a barrier.”
The Wurst Biergarten will be open Tuesdays through Sundays, May 31 through Sept. 1. During the summer months, the space will be available as a farmers market.
For more information and to learn of daily food and beer offerings, visit its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thewurstbiergarten.
Will a beer garden prosper in Cajun-Creole Lafayette, the happiest town in America?
“Germans have been doing it for 1,000 years,” MCue said. “They have beer gardens next to beer gardens, and they’re living happy.”