Deschutes Brewery will end the year with one less taphouse in its portfolio, but Oregon drinkers don’t need to worry about a final last call at any of the local pubs operated by the company.
The Bend-based business is shuttering the Tasting Room in Roanoke, Va., by Dec. 31. That news came in a letter signed by Deschutes president and CEO Michael LaLonde, which also attributed the decision to pull the plug on its only East Coast location to COVID-19.
“Deschutes has made the tough decision not to renew our lease,” the statement read. “We have all seen the global pandemic significantly reduce traffic in all restaurants, pubs and tasting rooms, the Roanoke Tasting Room is no exception.”
In 2016, the company made headlines by announcing it would build a production facility in Roanoke, purchasing 49 acres of land in an industrial park—the Roanoke Center for Industry and Technology—for $3.2 million. In advance of the brewery’s opening, with a groundbreaking scheduled for 2019, Deschutes began operating the Tasting Room in the heart of downtown one year later.
The 4,700-square-foot building with 15 taps was supposed to help locals become more familiar with the brewery’s beer lineup and overall branding as it looked to grow its East Coast presence—a business move a number of other producers were also gambling on around the same time, including Green Flash and Ballast Point, which were both founded in San Diego.
Then, in 2018, Deschutes pushed back the timeline to open the production facility, noting that sales in the brewing industry in general had begun to slow. The following year, LaLonde informed Roanoke officials that the company was not on track to meet those new projections, and the entire plan was put on indefinite hold.
These past few months, as Deschutes prepared for the Tasting Room’s closure, it has been working with each employee to find new positions at the company.
During the taphouse’s four years in business, it raised more than $300,000 for area nonprofits through the Deschutes Street Pub and Community Pints. Going forward, Deschutes says it will continue to consider Roanoke a sister city, and will invest in the community through a partnership with distributor Blue Ridge Beverage Company as well as have a presence at local events.