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Is Fort Worth not funky enough for Deep Ellum? Dallas brewery and city at odds

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the variance process time line.

Deep Ellum’s Fort Worth brewpub, Funkytown Fermatorium, appears to be at odds with Funkytown bureaucracy.

The brewery, featuring wood-fired pizza and Cowtown-exclusive brews, is set to open March 1. Until recently the shop at 611 University Dr. had a funky coat of paint — bright yellow, white and blue circular lettering that read “FUNKY TOWN FERMATORIUM” on a black background on one side, with a yellow and black Deep Ellum Brewing Co. logo emblazoned on the back side.

Folks at Deep Ellum say the lettering is a mural, but the city has told them it’s an advertisement that requires a sign code variance. The brewery hasn’t applied for one, which can take up to 30 days. They were told to paint over the letters.

Deep Ellum took to Facebook and Instragram last week to voice frustration with the city’s ordinance, which some took to be a complaint about Fort Worth as a whole.

The Dallas-based brewer said “that’s silly.”

“Not only did we just make a multimillion-dollar investment into a rundown building, but we take great pride in being part of such a great community,” said a Facebook post by the brewers, noting that their issue was with the bureaucracy. “Heck, this is why we nicknamed it the ‘Funkytown Fermatorium’ in the first place.”

Deep Ellum applied for a sign permit that did not show the painted exterior walls of the building, according to an email from city staff. Planning and development staff told the owners that the paint exceeded the city’s sign size by 455 square feet and in November informed them of the variance process.

As of Thursday the brewery has not completed the variance process.

Deep Ellum manager Ethan Minshaw said the building is now in compliance and the company is exploring the variance and other options.

“Despite having rough edges at times, our passion for developing deep roots is often highly understated,” he said in an email. “We are extremely excited to be an active player in the service and brewing community here in Ft Worth.”

Some who commented on the brewery’s page saw the controversy as a Fort Worth versus Dallas showdown.

With that attitude ... just stay in Dallas,” Timothy Dorsett wrote in a comment where a Deep Ellum in employee called a Fort Worth city employee an “unreasonable person.”

“Feel free to stay in Dallas. We have plenty of our own excellent breweries in Fort Worth already,” Patrick Totter wrote.

But not everyone was critical of the brewery.

“All this fuss about a sign is overshadowing the addition of a new venue within walking distance of the museum district. Let’s lift a brew and toast the sign/mural that will be. Fort Worth is glad to have you,” Carol Peters wrote.

A grand opening for the Fort Worth location is planned for March 1 with free beer. The taproom and kitchen is across the street from J & J Oyster Bar, a short walk from the West Seventh District on University Drive and will serve North Texas favorites like Dallas Blonde ale, Deep Ellum IPA and Neato Bandito along with Fort Worth-specific beers.

Dallas Cowboys games mean big crowds who spend big money on alcohol, with sales topping the charts statewide.

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Luke Ranker covers the intersection of people and government focused on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. He came to Texas from the plains of Kansas, where he wrote about a lot, including government, crime and courts in Topeka. He survived a single winter in Pennsylvania as a breaking news reporter. He can be reached at 817-390-7747 or lranker@star-telegram.com.

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