Lompoc Brewing, one of Portland’s oldest craft brewers, announced it will close next week after 23 years in business.
According to Brewbound, owner Jerry Fechter said “For me, it just felt like this is the right time, and time to back away from the craft brewing scene.”
Meanwhile, Heineken N.V.-owned Lagunitas Brewing has closed its Portland, Oregon-based “Community Room,” according to a report by the New School.
The two closures follow a string of craft breweries either ceasing operations or closing taprooms in the city in recent years.
For Lompoc, its brewery and two onsite pubs, the Fifth Quadrant and Sidebar, will close on Tuesday, October 29th. Fechter said he plans to repurpose the Oaks Bottom Public House as a pub.
“Instead of Lompoc beer, we’ll start selling some of the fine beers from the other 75 breweries here in town,” he said.
Fechter was Lompoc’s original brewer in 1996 and acquired the company in 2000 with business partner Don Younger. The company closed two other retail locations in recent years: Lompoc Tavern in September 2018 Hedge House Pub in November 2017.
“Really, we’ve had a pretty good run,” Fechter said. “We’ve seen several breweries reither shrink or disappear or get bought out by other people. Rebranding the brewery and product line is really difficult when there’s so many brewers out there.”
In February, the Gambrinus Company ceased operations at Bridgeport Brewing. That same month, nine-year-old Burnside Brewing closed after failing to make rent payments.
Those closures followed Craft Brew Alliance shuttering its Widmer Brothers pub in January after 22 years. FIFCO USA closed its Portland Brewing taproom after more than 30 years in November 2018. And Alameda Brewing closed its pub and taproom in 2018. However, the Widmer Brothers, Portland Brewing and Alameda brands live on.
Since 2014, Lompoc’s production has declined 25%, according to data from the Brewers Association, a national trade group representing the interests of small and independent U.S. craft breweries. Last year, the company produced 2,101 barrels.
“We’ve always been small,” Fechter said. “For us, the distribution was always secondary. If we distribute some beer, awesome. It’s more like advertising and hopefully driving people to the pub.”
Competition in Portland’s crowded craft beer market grew fierce and Fechter said his passion for the industry “isn’t where it was.”
“Seven or eight years ago there were only 30, 35 breweries,” he said. “The pie really hasn’t gotten much bigger, but all the slices have definitely gotten smaller.”
Lompoc will offer severance packages to its 15 employees, and Fechter said he plans to hire a few at Oaks Bottom. Lompoc will host a “garage sale” of beer and merchandise at Sidebar on Saturday, November 2nd.
“In business school, everybody teaches you how to run a business, but nobody teaches you how to go out of business,” Fechter said. “You just do the best you can.”
As for Lagunitas, the company’s Community Room — a venue for local organizations and non-profit organizations to host events at no charge with donated beer — closed with little warning this week. Lagunitas was criticized on social media for not giving groups that had reserved the space advance notice of the closure, effectively canceling events scheduled for the remainder of 2019.
“Not an easy decision to make, and we held out as long as we could,” Lagunitas wrote in a tweet. “We will still be providing beer for PDX non-profits in the future.”
Lagunitas’ other taproom locations — in Chicago, Seattle, and Petaluma, California — all offer their spaces to non-profits for fundraisers on select weeknights, according to the company’s website, from which the Portland location has already been removed.