Citing the pandemic and "global declines in the craft beer industry," popular San Diego-based beer brand Modern Times announced Tuesday that it's shuttering four of its West Coast taprooms, including one that it opened in Oakland in December 2019.
In a statement on the brewery's website, Modern Times calls this "the most difficult day we’ve ever had" at the company. And due to the major financial crisis it is in, the company says that its immediately closing its taprooms in Oakland, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and Portland. That will leave four remaining taprooms in San Diego and Orange counties, in Point Loma, North Park, Encinitas, and Anaheim.
The move comes a little over a month after former New Belgium Brewing VP Jennifer Briggs took over as CEO of Modern Times, following the May 2021 departure of founder Jacob McKean amid allegations of sexual harassment and a toxic work environment for women.
"As new leadership has stepped up and taken the helm over the last few weeks, it became clear that the financial state of the company that we are now tasked with directing is not just unsustainable, but in immediate and unavoidable peril," the company says. "As a result of this, we are forced to make some incredibly hard choices, which — while necessary for the health and continued success of our company — will result in many of our talented, hardworking staff losing their jobs."
As the Chronicle notes, Modern Times opened its long-awaited, brightly colored Oakland taproom — dubbed the House of Perpetual Refreshment — a few blocks from Lake Merritt just a few unlucky months before the start of the pandemic.
The economics of craft beer have shifted in recent years following a boom over a decade ago. Industry experts have been saying for at least four years that Millennials' tastes often include more consumption of wine and spirits, if they drink at all — and that meant that the market, driven by the boom of ten years ago, was probably oversaturated.
Still, brewpubs and taprooms remain a big draw around the Bay Area. But it may be that Modern Times didn't have the time to establish its local following, amid a wealth of competition.
The rapid expansion of Modern Times to eight total locations, some including vegan restaurants attached, after being founded just nine years ago, may also be to blame.
"We will be turning our distribution and hospitality efforts back to Southern California and the Southwest as we do everything we can to step away from the opacity and unanchored optimism of the past and build a smaller, smarter, more focused, and more equitable company for the future," the company says in its statement today.
Known for its diverse array of seasonal beers, its creative marketing, and its coffee-roasting arm as well, Modern Times is perhaps a cautionary tale from a more exuberant time in the craft beer sphere.
Tonight will be the final trivia night at Modern Times' Oakland taproom, and Friday will be its last day in business. There's no word on whether that means clearance sales for cans of beer...