Rail Haus, a new German-inspired outdoor-indoor beer garden, restaurant, and “community hub” that sits on nearly one acre is set to open this summer at 92 N West St, according to owner Donny Legans.
Legans, who used to live in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood, says the idea for Rail Haus came from his time spent at the neighborhood’s Frankford Hall beer garden, coupled with the realization that Dover, despite its position as a growing city, lacked a similar spot.
“I’ve just loved [Frankford Hall] since the day it opened and for the last 10 years,” Legans tells What Now Philadelphia, adding, “when we moved to Dover – my wife is in the Air Force, hence the move here – I thought it would be nice to have something like that…There just wasn’t anything like what we were looking for…that we could walk to or bike to.”
Rail Haus will occupy a former auto parts store and gas station that sat vacant for upwards of 30 years. As such, the journey towards getting the beer garden open has been something of a long one, requiring rezoning permits and various approvals for land use changes. Nevertheless, it’s a journey that has enjoyed support all along the way.
“The neighborhood came out in full force for it,” says Legans. “There was a lot of support behind it, both in government and residents. It’s high time we have something like this. Dover is a beautiful town, there’s a college a few blocks away… the Air Force base is about an eight-minute drive away. There’s a whole lot of industry here, but there’s just not a whole lot to do after 5:00. Hence, we wanted to do something that’s more kid-friendly, family-friendly, and dog-friendly.”
Despite its designation as a beer garden, that family-friendly atmosphere will be bolstered by a full-scale restaurant, as well as a sizable patio for outdoor games such as boce ball, corn hole, and a sandpit, as well as an area reserved for outside food trucks to set up shop and keep the food offerings unique and ever-changing.
At the same time, Rail Haus’ dedicated, on-site kitchen – serving brats, pretzels, fries, and similar fare – will be housed in a 40-foot shipping container that connects to the main building, allowing a bit more space than its current 2,500 square feet allows.
At the end of the day, however, Rail Haus is a first-of-its-kind venture for the area and one that has the potential to transform the city.
“I hope Rail Haus is sort of that catalyst for how people view downtown Dover. It’s a beautiful place to raise a family, great place to go to college, obviously it’s a huge retirement area, and then you have all this industry around. So hopefully this changes people’s minds about getting up and getting around Dover, and downtown Dover specifically.”