BEND, Ore. - Three years after a competition for the project ended with Deschutes Brewery picking Roanoke, Virginia for a major East Coast distribution plant, a softer craft brewing market has prompted the Bend company to shelve its plans, perhaps for good.
Several East Coast cities had vied for the plant, which was to cost $95 million and employ more than 100 people.
But in a letter sent late last week to Roanoke City Manager Robert Cowell, Deschutes Brewery President and CEO Michael LaLonde said the company was "not on track" to meet the deadlines of completing designs by August 31, 2020, or to start building the facility by 2021.
"As we have shared in the past, the craft beer market continues to be challenging," LaLonde wrote. "We hope the market stabilizes in the near future and allows us to continue work on our national expansion. We plan to continue to operate our tasting room in Roanoke and remain a contributing member of the community."
The Deschutes official also said they continue to own the property where the plant was to be built "and will meet our remaining contractual obligations" to the city.
"If we build a brewery on the East Cost, it will be in Roanoke," LaLonde added, thanking Cowell for his continued support of the project.
Nearly a year ago, Deschutes Brewery had made known that it was delaying and likely scaling back the planned Roanoke Brewery, where initial plans called for breaking ground this June. That came just three weeks before the brewery was set to close on the purchase of a 49-acre parcel in Roanoke.
Some larger West Coast brewers who expanded east already had scaled back or closed operations. Even wiithout millions in proposed incentives that were not paid, the brewery proceeded with the $3.2 million land purchase, to demonstrate its commitment to the area.
On Tuesdsay, Cowell told The Roanoke Times, "Obviously, we're disappointed" by the decision, but said he city understands the business realities of the situation. He added that the "glimmer" of hope of a later project "softens the disappointment a little bit."