Lagunitas Brewing opened its Portland “Community Room” in 2016, before they fully sold the Petaluma, California-based company to Heineken in May 2017. Yesterday, word got out that Lagunitas Brewing had closed the community room without notice, all employees were let go with a severance, and all non-profit charity events canceled.
“I’m devastated, not just by my treatment but by the callousness toward the community,” wrote an anonymous source to The New School.
The Community Room was part of Lagunitas’ broader charitable programs, a taproom that was available for free and included Lagunitas beer and a small staff. The concept was to open the space up to non-profits for charity fundraiser events. Lagunitas would host them for free and provide the beer rather than just straight cash. The community room has been a popular spot and had nearly 40 events still booked through the end of 2019.
According to a staff member with knowledge of the situation who emailed The New School but requested anonymity, “nonprofits who were granted this donation are now, well, fucked. They have paid for licensing, catering, mcs, bands, sold tickets, and budgeted according to the donation approved by lagunitas. There was a event on Wednesday for girls on the run, and countless more the rest of the month that have all been canceled with a cold email [sic].”
Lagunitas’ public relations media director Max Wertheimer said, “Lagunitas has decided to close the Portland Community room in order to shift resources that will allow us to support more communities across the country.”
It is important to note that Wertheimer expressed regret about the situation but could not elaborate on why the community room was closed so suddenly. “This is not a decision we took lightly, as Portland is a community that’s been a part of the Lagunitas story since day one.” Wertheimer said all non-profits who had events booked at the community room will receive beer donations instead.
It’s still unclear what the closure means for Lagunitas, but Wertheimer says there are no plans to close other locations. Staff members and non-profits are reportedly distressed by the news and have taken to social media threads like reddit.
“We ran almost 300 events a year and had events scheduled 5 days a week and more through the end of 2019. It wasn’t going to last forever, but I never could have imagined it ending by firing all their staff and cancelling reservations. There will be a lot of nonprofits that need help through the end of the year,” wrote the anonymous employee to The New School.
Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding.