Feb 25, 2024


Justus Frank, left, and Jeremy Barber, right, owners of "The Garden" and "Live Oak" in Del Ray area of Alexandria, are opening the Mill Street Draft Garden in Occoquan.

About a year and a half past its expected opening – but just in time for Labor Day weekend – a new beer garden is set to open this week in Occoquan.

The Mill Street Draft Garden is slated to open Wednesday, Aug. 30, in Occoquan.

“We are really, really excited,” said Jeremy Barber, who is the force behind the Mill Street Draft Garden along with his partner and brother-in-law, Justus Frank. The business is slated to open Wednesday, Aug. 30 at 3 p.m.

“Relieved is the best way to say it,” Barber said.

A view of the Mill Street Draft House a few days before its opening day, which is slated for Wednesday, Aug. 30.

“I've been asked almost every week recently when they are going to open, so I know there is a lot of interest and excitement," said Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta.

Most of the delay was due to the Prince William County permitting process, the partners said.

“We went through a pretty strenuous permit process,” Barber said. Barber and Frank own a similar beer garden, “The Garden,” in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria.

“The Town of Occoquan was amazing and really helped us out with everything,” Barber said. “One of my biggest complaints was that anytime I needed something done, I needed to make a phone call to the mayor to actually get something to happen.

“We are here now, and we are ready to be open,” Barber said.

The family- and dog-friendly beer garden with the capacity of about 200 patrons will feature fire pits, yard games and regional craft beers.

The partners brought in a food trailer with a fully equipped kitchen that has a rotisserie smoker, a couple of friers, flat-top griddles and convection ovens. Frank is Mill Street Draft Garden’s chef.

“We’ll do a lot of smoked meats. We’ll have everything from carnitas tacos, pulled-pork sandwiches to chicken wings,” Barber said.

They will also have other kinds of tacos as well as other sandwiches, salads and desserts, such as peanut butter squares and cinnamon sugar churros.

The Draft Garden will use “Go Tab,” a QR code-based ordering system that allows patrons to place their food and drink orders from their smartphones.

“Then, we will bring everything to you, right where you are,” Barber said. For those unable to use Go Tab, runners will place orders with iPads.

Barber said they started using Go Tab in 2018 at their Alexandria beer garden. “We found it very effective,” he said.

The Mill Street Draft Garden features a pervious gravel surface with picnic tables and Adirondack chairs along with pergolas and umbrellas.

The 15,000-square-foot lot and the former Prince William County Tourism Center, at 200 Mill St., which is owned by the town, make up the Draft Garden.

Through a public-private partnership arranged with the Occoquan Town Council, the Mill Street Draft Garden will use the former visitors’ center for an indoor service bar. The building’s restrooms will be open for public use.

The service bar for the Draft Garden will be housed inside the 300-square-foot building.

The Occoquan Town Council approved a public-private partnership with Barber and Frank in 2021 to enable their use of the visitors center building.

Under the terms of the agreement, the building’s restrooms will be open to the public as they were in the past. Meals tax revenues generated by the Mill Street Draft Garden will be credited to the town for the $7,500 yearly rent.

If the beer garden generates less than $7,500 in meals tax revenues, the owners will have to make up the difference.

The town required the Draft Garden owners to place bonds down for the work they were doing.

“When the bonds were released after we did everything we needed to do, we used that money to pay the first year’s rent on the (visitors' center) part of the project,” Barber said. “We haven’t had to do that for the second year.”

They said they hope the new beer garden will generate enough meals tax revenue before the rent comes due at the end of the year.

Barber said Letty Lynn, who owns the lot, “has been very helpful. She has abated some of the rent for us.”

“We are fortunate that Letty was so helpful, and the town was willing to work with us,” he said.

“It’s time to open this place and do what we know how to do and do best.”

"We're grateful they've chosen to locate here in Occoquan and add to the increasing diversity of places the town offers to eat and drink,” Porta said.

The Mill Street Draft Garden will be open year-round, likely with shorter hours in January through March. When it opens this week, the Mill Street Draft Garden will be open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 3 p.m. until closing, probably around 10 p.m., depending on interest; Fridays from noon until closing and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. until closing.

Reach Aileen Streng at [email protected]

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