Saturday, September 04, 1999

Udris to join beer company

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Andi Udris, who left the Cleveland private sector to become Cincinnati's economic development director five years ago, will head a Bavarian beer company's expansion into the United States after leaving his city post in December.

        Mr. Udris, who announced his resignation Thursday, will become the chief executive Jan. 1 of a local company managing the opening of at least six Hofbrauhaus breweries and restaurants in the Midwest. Included in those destinations is Cincinnati's riverfront, a target of Hofbrauhaus for two years.

        “What (they) needed in the United States is someone who understands — and this is where I come in — the local market and finance and urban issues,” Mr. Udris said Friday.

        His holding company, developed for this transaction, is called the Cincinnati Restaurant Group (CRG).

        Mr. Udris, who does not leave the economic development department until Dec. 31, denied that there will be a conflict of interest in his new posi tion. He said Munich-based Hofbrauhaus is not requesting or receiving assistance from the city, and negotiations for a site will be carried on with county officials.

        Ohio ethics law prohibits Mr. Udris from dealing with city officials for a year. Such negotiations will be left to the two other members of CRG, both Hofbrauhaus executives.

        “We see a good chance for the Midwest, and we want Cincinnati to be the headquarters here,” said Maximilian Erlmeier, international business director of Hofbrauhaus and the likely chairman of CRG. “We have more than 400 years in the brewing business. What we need is a partner with good local contacts, with good local knowledge.

        “I would have liked (Mr. Udris) right from the beginning, but I wouldn't dare have told him.”

        Hofbrauhaus has wanted to build a brewery on the Queen City side of the Ohio River for a couple of years. Originally, the Bavarian government, which owns Hofbrauhaus, was to own the restaurant with American investors. But the German government opted against such an arrangement, preferring a U.S. company to handle the licensing, management and financing. So the CRG was developed.

        Norman Miller, a member of the Cincinnati Riverfront Advisory Commission and a University of Cincinnati professor of real estate, said Mr. Udris has been very enthusiastic about Hofbrauhaus.

        “I do believe he has the experience to understand the private sector,” he said.

        Mr. Udris said he did not feel pressured to leave his $105,000-a-year position with the city, despite criticisms about his performance.

        “I do feel that this city has a lot of challenges, a lot of issues,” he said. “There's a lot of posturing going on.

        “The truth is I truly believe in what (City Manager) John Shirey works for.”

        Mr. Udris said he is staying through the year so his position doesn't sit empty. Some downtown developers hope he'll spend the next four months completing projects, such as underground parking at Fifth and Race streets.

        The CRG's next step is arranging the $6 million in private funding needed to build the Cincinnati restaurant and brewery. Mr. Udris said lawyers are handling that now and he won't in his capacity as economic development director get involved.

        “I wouldn't think” there's a conflict, said Joe Kramer, vice president of economic development for the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. “My understanding of the location they're looking at on the riverfront is subject to a very long lead time.”

        Mr. Udris hopes a brewery and restaurant, seating 500 each indoors and in an outdoor biergarten, will open in Cincinnati in 2001. Meanwhile, the CRG so far is looking at Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee for expansion.


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