Plans to expand the future Bishop’s Hill winery received preliminary approval Thursday.
The winery is slated to open in the coming months on the old Diocese of Joliet campus, and the owners want to add the former chancery building to the operation.
The Zoning Board of Appeals approved the needed zoning variation, which will go to the Joliet City Council for final approval.
The chancery building at 425 Summit St. was the primary office building for the diocese before it moved to Crest Hill. The winery group had attempted to lease the space out, and at one time had a pending deal with Catholic Charities that did not go through.
“We want to utilize the vacant building as part of our operations since we couldn’t rent it,” Phil Soto, one of four owners in the winery business, told the zoning board Thursday.
The group has completed renovations of the former bishop’s house, known as The Castle because of its limestone construction and medieval features. The Castle will be used for wine tastings and banquets, and Soto said business will begin this year.
The city in December issued a liquor license for the business, and the group is waiting on another liquor license from the state.
The chancery building, when it is renovated, will be used for wine production and storage on the first floor. The second and third floors will be used for meeting and event space. The group also plans to open a wine store on the first floor.
The building includes an adjacent parking lot with 21 spaces, and the city is looking for an updated parking plan from the winery group.
The zoning variation came with conditions requiring the owners to keep the parking lot and submit an updated parking plan to the city when they get a building permit for the chancery renovations.
Before the property was acquired for the Diocese of Joliet, it was used for a brewery that was demolished decades ago. The owners plan to construct a wine processing building on the site of the old brewery with limestone that was buried on-site when the brewery building was torn down.
The site also includes limestone tunnels beneath where the brewery once stood. The tunnels were used for beer storage. The Bishop’s Hill group plans to use the tunnels for wine storage when they complete reconstruction on the site.