Every now and again, I check the State of New Mexico’s licensing page to see if there are any new pending small brewer or small brewer offsite licenses. For quite some time now, there have not been any new ones, which is just a sign of the times.
Allow me to explain that statement. The reasons that we have seen such a slowdown in new places opening, even with folks saying that more retail/commercial spaces are available and cheaper than ever, are quite numerous. Here are just a few of those.
Is it all staffing issues?
Not entirely, but let’s face it, most breweries (particularly those with kitchens) are having a hard time filling their entry-level job positions. Add an offsite taproom, or try to open a new place, and there will likely be an even greater shortage of potential employees. The reasons for this shortage have been discussed many times — a stand against low pay, taking advantage of expanded unemployment benefits, an unwillingness to deal with the increasing number of unruly customers, etc. — but regardless of one’s viewpoint, there just aren’t as many people available as before the pandemic.
Could it be the equipment/supply shortage?
This certainly plays a part. As La Reforma co-owner John Gozigian noted in a recent interview, one of the reasons they passed on an offsite taproom in Rio Rancho was due to the worry of not having the right building supplies being available and/or affordable. There is pretty much a shortage of everything these days, and as business owners like to say, time is money, and delays while waiting for parts to arrive can cost a lot more money than people can afford these days.
Two good examples of this can be found, or technically not found, with Gravity Bound and Lizard Tail. The former’s owners told us a while back (mid-June, to be exact) that they were waiting on a 10-barrel fermenter to help increase their brewing capacity. Cameron Frigon told me on Sunday that he finally got word that the fermenter has finally shipped out and will hopefully arrive by the end of this week.
Meanwhile, Lizard Tail owner Dan Berry told us around that same time that he was waiting on a walk-in cooler to arrive for his forthcoming Nob Hill taproom. As soon as it arrived, they would be ready to open within days. The taproom has still not opened, unfortunately, nearly two months since our interview. UPDATE: It turns out the taproom is open. Thanks to reader Tom Ciccateri for the heads up. There’s even an Instagram page now for this space, but nothing yet on Facebook (and it wasn’t announced on the other two LT pages).
Does it go back more to the money lost during the pandemic shutdown months?
This is entirely possible. As we have noted many times before, breweries tend to be very open with us (and each other) about many things, but their financial information is not one of those things. Some breweries may have wanted to expand, or new potential brewery owners were getting ready to move ahead with their projects, only to see the pandemic restrictions leave them with crushing financial losses.
Even when things opened up fully this year, I had a conversation with a brewery owner and expressed my general surprise that only five breweries in the Albuquerque area closed their doors (and two have since reopened under new owners). He replied that the carnage is far from over, and in his opinion twice that many breweries, or even more, could close during the upcoming winter. His point was that eventually landlords are going to demand back rent, and loans will come due, and if places do not recoup their losses over the summer (the traditional busiest and most lucrative months for breweries), then it will all come crashing down.
OK, now things are getting a little depressing. Let us move along.
So there are no new places in the works?
There are still some places that are moving forward, albeit slowly. We do know that Bow & Arrow is aiming to open the Rambler Taproom in Farmington by the end of this month. Public House 28, whose owner we met at the last Brewers Guild Social, told us that they were getting close to opening between Anthony and Las Cruces, and we would be invited down when the full beer lineup was ready to go.
We have not seen anything recent on the status of Echoes Brewery in downtown Albuquerque, nor Wanted Brewing and Distilling in Las Vegas, but there is no reason to worry, based on our last conversations with those places. The Nuckolls Brewing, which is coming to the Santa Fe Railyard, did reach out to us recently, so look for a story in the coming weeks.
Currently there are four pending small brewer licenses of note — Bosque Westside (on hold for now, along with the taproom at Eubank and Spain), Brickyard Pizza (no updates), Travel Bug in Santa Fe (we are working on a story on this one), and now the Jemez Mountains Brewhouse, which we believe is a rebranded Second Alarm Brewhouse, though that is unconfirmed (it has been shut down since April, FYI).
As for offsite taprooms, we will touch base with Turtle Mountain owner Nico Ortiz whenever he gets back from vacation to see how things are going with his new spot in Enchanted Hills/North Rio Rancho. There is an El Ortiz Cafe in Lamy planned to operate under an offsite license from Nuckolls, so we will include that in the story about the brewery. There is also the mysterious Downshift Brewing in Ruidoso, an offsite taproom without a brewery (yeah, it’s weird to see that), so we will have to investigate that further.
For a long time, the Crew has relied on stories about what’s next to fill the need for content on our site. Clearly, there is not going to be much new in terms of large-scale projects going forward, and we have no idea how long this slowdown is really going to last. We will continue to report on what we can find out there, but as always, helpful tips from the public are always welcome.
Just be patient with us as we have to dig a little deeper to keep that beer news flowing.
And, as always …
Keep supporting local!