Editor’s Note 8/28/19: Jimmy Walker, head brewer at Breckenridge Brewery, announced that the brewpub reached an agreement with its landlord and it will remain at 600 S. Main Street for at least two more years, ending a summer of uncertainty in which the future of the brewery’s flagship location hung in limbo.
Breckenridge Brewery, a 29-year-old institution in one of Colorado’s most popular mountain towns, might be forced to leave its original location by the end of the month. Employees of the company say the brewery recently received notice that its lease agreement is being broken by the landlord, and they have until June 30 to vacate the building they’ve called home since 1990.
The news comes as a shock to longtime employees, but perhaps more surprising is that one of the landlords for the building appears to be Richard Squire, the founder of Breckenridge Brewery who is no longer affiliated with the brewery but is still part owner of the property.
Squire, who owns Breckenridge Brewery Real Estate LTD—the company which, according to public records, owns the building at 600 S. Main Street—said he could not provide any detailed comment on the matter when reached by phone Thursday afternoon.
However, he did confirm his ownership in the real estate company and that he founded Breckenridge Brewery, and said his remaining shares in the brewery were completely liquidated when it was sold to Anheuser-Busch (A-B) in 2015. Citing pending litigation, A-B could not confirm Squire is the building’s sole landlord, but a representative said he is believed to be a part owner and a partner in the group that makes up the LTD.
What happens next is unclear, as brewery employees scramble to save their home and lawyers on both sides of the dispute prepare to litigate the matter.
According to Jimmy Walker, the head brewer at Breckenridge, a deal was in place to extend the brewery’s lease by five years. “We didn’t think we had a deal,” he says. “We had a deal. We had an agreement, absolutely.”
Walker says the brewery employs between 60 and 80 workers depending on the season, and that everyone is frightened by the recent development. “We’re terrified,” Walker says. “I’ve been coming to work here for 22 years. I couldn’t imagine going to another location. It makes me want to cry.”
Why the landlord allegedly backed out of the agreement is not immediately known. The dispute apparently does not come down to a rent increase, as Anheuser-Busch representatives noted the brewery could certainly afford to stay in its location on Main Street.
“I know we already pay more rent than we probably should,” Walker says. “Because we can.”
Walker and representatives from Anheuser-Busch speculated that the landlord wants to open its own restaurant concept in the two-story building, and therefore needs the Brewery to vacate the premises.
“The current landlords are very excited to open up their own location and collect more than just rent,” Walker says. “Maybe they think they can do a better job than we can. I think they’re mistaken.”
If the dispute is not resolved this month and the brewery is forced out of its space, Walker isn’t sure how much equipment his team will be allowed to take with them. “That might be something else for the courts to decide,” he says. “We have a pretty good idea of what’s ours and what isn’t.”
Megan Lagesse, head of communications for the craft business unit at A-B, says the company is “absolutely” committed to keeping the brewery in Breckenridge, whether it is in its current space or in another location.
For his part, Walker is thankful to have the backing of a corporate titan. Though he was skeptical about being acquired by A-B in 2015, he says it has allowed Breckenridge Brewery more resources for innovation and philanthropy, and that he feels confident A-B will be good partner in guiding the brewery through this dispute.
Walker can’t speculate on the ultimate outcome, but he trusts the brewery will stay in town: “You have to have a Breckenridge Brewery in Breckenridge.”
The brewery operates a second location in Littleton, which serves as its primary brewing facility and features the Farm House restaurant. The Littleton space does not appear to be impacted by what is happening in Summit County.