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Swamp Cat Brewing Co.’s path to existence hasn’t been an easy one. But owners Chris Gutierrez and Matt Leger are finally getting geared up for a late-summer or early fall opening following a months-long delay. 

The owners said they had a construction bid of about $550,000 entering fall 2022. They were on the verge of beginning the interior overhaul of what had opened as a church in 1952 and later a thrift shop when Hurricane Ian hit Sept. 28, 2022, delaying the project. 

The contractor then submitted a new bid of $2.7 million. 

Gutierrez and Leger then pushed the pause button and reevaluated the project because of the sticker shock. Swamp Cat Holdings Company LLC purchased the property at 1943 Fowler St. in Fort Myers in July 2022 for $725,000, property records show. 

Swamp Cat found a new contractor, and reconstruction of the 5,000 square feet of space is almost finished. The only other remaining delay is brewing the beer. It will take about two months to brew enough beer to open, said Gutierrez, a 27-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and the company’s founder and brewer. 

“The process to get here has been a journey,” Gutierrez said. “And so we went through a lot of trials and tribulations. Ian. The whole community went through Ian. Us included. That kind of delayed things. That kind of made us reassess how we were going to move forward. It just took a little longer than we anticipated.” 

Swamp Cat recently held a private open house to show off what Leger calls “the first beer hall in Southwest Florida.” 

In addition to the on-site brewed beer, Swamp Cat’s business model includes three in-house kitchensinstead of food trucksthat will offer a variety of dining options. 

“This is a first-of-its-kind in Southwest Florida,” Leger said. “We’re the first beer hall, beer garden and food hall experience. We’ve got plenty of indoor and outdoor seats. There’s tons of character in the old building.” 

Leger has a degree and background in architecture. He said the building’s history plays right into what Swamp Cat wants for the building’s future. 

“Church architectural lines work very well with food service architecture,” Leger said. “Sunday mornings, someone wants to go to be inspired. Just like on a Friday night, when they go out to eat, they want a really good experience.” 

Gutierrez said he’s grateful to finally be able to do what he set out to do: brew the beer. Giving up on the project wasn’t an option, he said.  

“It’s going to feel so amazing once our doors are actually open to the public and people come here enjoying our product, enjoying our space and enjoying the experience they’re going to have here.”  

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