Burnside Brewing is effectively closed after the property owner changed the locks on the building Monday.
A sign posted on the 9-year-old brewery's entrance states that Burnside hasn't kept up with its rent, even going so far as to include the line, "as you know, no payments have been made to the Landlord in months." There's also now a lien on the possessions inside the building as collateral.
Not only did this blindside beer drinkers and longtime fans of the pub on East Burnside Street, who were notified via a Facebook post on the brewery's page that the pub was closed Monday for a "snow day," employees got notice the following day that they were out of a job. A screenshot of a message to workers was posted on Reddit, saying the brewery was "no longer operational" and that "wages would be paid as soon as possible," though it might not be possible to make payroll as scheduled this Friday. Staff were further instructed to file for unemployment.
It's not clear whether Burnside was struggling financially due to fierce competition in the craft brewing industry, which has led to slumping sales at a number of older breweries. In the last five months alone, Portland lost Lompoc's original location on Northwest 23rd Avenue, Portland Brewing's restaurant and tasting room, Widmer's pub and Alameda Brewing closed up shop completely. Even in the heart of hop country, Silverton's decade-old Seven Brides shuttered last fall. Other longtime beer producers have laid off staff and restructured like BridgePort Brewing, which cut brewing positions in 2017 and added a pilot system to innovate its product.
Burnside's folding also displaces the Fruit Beer Festival and the Fresh Hop Pop-Up Beer Fest, which had packed the business's parking lot with drinkers every June and September. WW contributing writer Ezra Johnson-Greenough, organizer of those events, was also surprised that he'll now need to scout out new locations.
"I had been trying to set up a meeting with them about the Fruit Beer Fest for the last few weeks and it was obvious they were preoccupied but I didn't see this coming," he says. "But I spoke to one of the owners this morning and he told me they didn't see this coming up on them so fast. As recently as last year's festival they were talking about purchasing the whole building and lot themselves."
Johnson-Greenough is confident both events will return in 2019 as he's already received offers for venues and partnerships.
"There is a lot more to the story than people know and much of it cannot be legally disclosed," he adds. "I would caution people against making any assumptions and judgement calls on how this has all went down."
So far, there's no official statement on Burnside's website or social media platforms, and the brewery owners have not yet responded to requests for comment. The landlord's attorney did not immediately return a request for comment.