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Deschutes to pour no more in Roanoke

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The Deschutes Brewery in downtown Roanoke is closing.

Roanoke once had a promising future with Deschutes Brewery, but that keg has likely been tapped out.

The Oregon company announced in a letter penned by CEO Michael LaLonde that it would be closing its tasting room in downtown Roanoke at the end of the year.

Though profitability was an issue, with the Roanoke location only bringing in 30% of the business it did before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were other factors that led to Deschutes leaving the Star City, according to CFO Peter Skrbek.

The Market Street location was also not big enough to expand operations for a restaurant or brewery, he said. One of the two is required for breweries selling beer under Virginia law.

The Deschutes tasting room was exempt from this law until April 30, 2022, according to previous reporting by The Roanoke Times.

“I think 20% of the beer sold has to be brewed in house or you have to sell food,” Skrbek said.

Skrbek said that when the room opened in 2017, it was only supposed to be a temporary location until Deschutes built its first East Coast production facility on a 49-acre site in the Roanoke Centre for Industry and Technology, a plan that was announced in 2016 and put on an indefinite hold in 2019, according to previous coverage by The Roanoke Times.

He said there are no current plans to build an East Coast facility anywhere in the country at this time, and it would take the Bend, Oregon, plant being at full capacity for those plans to start up again.

“Our Bend facility is currently running at about 70% capacity,” Skrbek said.

He said Deschutes still owns the $3.2 million parcel of land where the facility was to be built in the event that the company does open the facility, also noting that it has no such other plots of land on the East Coast.

The company is helping the taproom’s eight employees find work within the Deschutes company, LaLonde said Wednesday.

“There are many roles available in different capacities across the country,” he said.

Deschutes’ has pub restaurants in other locations across the U.S. that will remain open, according to Skrbek.

Since opening in 2017, Deschutes raised more than $300,000 in support of nonprofits in the region through events, according to the release.

“Roanoke will remain a very valued and special part of Deschutes Brewery as we continue to invest in the community through our partnership with Blue Ridge Beverage and community events,” LaLonde wrote in his letter.

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