The former St. Joseph’s Church at 251 Main St. in Lewiston is seen Tuesday afternoon. The building, on the National Register of Historic Places, will be transformed into a brewery with plans to open by next summer. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Democracy Brewing in downtown Boston will open a second location in the former St. Joseph’s Church at 251 Main St. in 2023.

Co-founder, CEO and worker/owner James Razsa, who recently relocated to his hometown of Gray, said he would love to be open by next summer, but knows he has a lot of work ahead of him.

The Gothic Revival-style church was completed in 1867 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which means it could be eligible for preservation funds and federal tax credits to help offset the costs of renovation.

The church was purchased from Central Maine Healthcare, which bought it from the Catholic Church in 2013. It has been vacant for nearly 10 years, but Razsa said the inside is still beautiful, structurally sound and has a new roof.

The city expects to invest $100,000 in a Community Development Block Grant for working capital and to assist with refinancing part of the acquisition costs. In return, Democracy Brewing will create four jobs for low- to moderate-income residents, according to the city’s economic and community development director, Lincoln Jeffers.

The interior of the former St. Joseph’s Church is seen recently at 251 Main St. in Lewiston. James Razsa photo

Razsa said they will need to build out a full commercial kitchen and brewery, make room for a 150-seat restaurant and an event space, plus some outdoor seating. That shouldn’t be a problem inside the 16,000 -square-foot building — double the size of the Boston location, which just marked its fourth year in operation. The brewpub will have plenty of parking with two additional lots on the side and back of the property.


Democracy Brewing is a worker-owned brewery and pub and will be the same in Lewiston, Razsa said. After one year of working at Democracy Brewing, employees are eligible to become “owners” but must be voted in by the other owners. That entitles employees to buy a Class A share of the company, which in turn gives them more voting rights and share in the profitability. Workers together resolve issues within the company like wages and policy. They become Razsa’s boss, essentially.

“We’re not really looking to change a lot. We’re trying to really preserve it,” Razsa said about the former church.

He said he looked at a couple other possible sites, but the church offered a unique opportunity and he loves the architecture and the space that was created there.

“I’m really just excited that we can kind of bring our sort of community model to such a beautiful building and preserve it at the same time,” he said.

He said he’s hoping they can begin work before the end of the year but is aware of the regulatory process and the historic preservation approvals needed before any work can begin.

Razsa grew up in Gray and has since relocated, buying a house close to his parents and brother. He said he’ll still make the two-hour drive to Boston a couple days a week because the worker-owned model means everyone has a stake in how the business runs and shares in the responsibilities.

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