Downtown Santa Rosa brewery closes and blames 2017 wildfires
The owner of a downtown brewpub at the Santa Rosa Plaza stopped tapping beers and closed the doors on Wednesday, citing the inability to recover from a steep drop in customers after the October 2017 wildfires as the prime reason.
2 Tread Brewing Co. had opened on Sept. 20, 2017, at the former Fresh Choice restaurant site at the mall with a microbrewery serving pub food and an outdoor beer garden. Less than a month later, the fierce Tubbs fire severely burned northern sections of the city. That blaze and other infernos the same day disrupted lives and businesses throughout the county.
Bill Drury on Wednesday said his brewery never was able to regain its footing in the local craft beer sector after the fires, blaming them for causing an immediate sharp customer drop of up to 70 percent. Overall, he and his partners poured more than $1 million into the business that at one time employed 50 people.
“The first three weeks we were opened, we were comfortably ahead of projections,” said Drury, who added that he took out another loan last year in a bid to keep the business alive. “Then the fires hit. ... On cash flow matters, we could never get in front.”
The closing is the second food-related county enterprise in less than a month in which the owners cited negative repercussions from the fires in their decisions to halt operations. In Healdsburg, the owners of the SHED Modern Grange, a foodie mecca, blamed the fires for upending the popular destination they closed on Dec. 31.
The 2 Tread closing is especially notable for the future of the Plaza shopping mall in the city and downtown Santa Rosa redevelopment. At the end of 2018, the mall lost one of its anchor department stores, cash-strapped Sears. Its other anchor retailer, Macy’s, remains vulnerable given that its parent company previously said it will close 100 of its stores across the country.
When it opened, 2 Tread had been touted as an establishment that would help lure much-needed foot traffic into the Plaza, as the bricks-and-mortar retailing sector struggles to stay viable with more consumers increasing their online shopping.
Christa Williams, a spokeswoman for Santa Rosa Plaza, said Wednesday in a prepared statement that the mall owner would continue “to enhance the shopping center environment for our guests, seeking to bring in entertainment, dining and other nontraditional uses to the center and market.”
2 Tread was a relatively new entrant in the competitive and somewhat crowded Sonoma County craft beer market. Drury, formerly a pharmaceutical researcher, had been working on opening a brewery for years. He brought in Christian August, former head brewer at Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in Paso Robles, as a partner and to brew the beers. His hazy India pale ale did win a gold medal for the brewery at an international beer competition in Denver.
But in addition to the fires right after its debut, the brewery opening was hindered by construction delays. Drury originally wanted to open by the end of 2016. Once it did launch, 2 Tread’s brewhouse was not ready to produce beers, drawing online criticism from local beer aficionados. The brewery also faced strong competition from other young entrants in the downtown beer business, such as the Local Barrel taproom and Shady Oak Barrel House, located just south of the mall featuring a popular sour beer lineup. And the downtown also is home to established craft brewers Russian River and Third Street Aleworks, both with loyal patrons.
Despite the closure, there remains optimism in the Santa Rosa craft beer sector. For instance, 3 Disciples Brewing Co. soon will announce the opening date of its tasting room two blocks north of Old Courthouse Square, co-owner James Claus said.
Unlike 2 Tread, Claus and his partners spent years building a fan base by selling their beers made in a small facility in Sebastopol at local taprooms. The brewery paid off its equipment loans and has decided not to offer food initially to keep operating costs down.
“We couldn’t be more excited,” Claus said. “We had a chance to grow organically. It’s all been through grassroots.”
You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @BillSwindell.