At Australian Brews News we pride ourselves on bringing good beer news to the attention of the good beer public. Whether it’s news of a new brew or brewery, beer events and various festivals or the opening of a new retail venture, we love spreading good cheer.
So it is never a pleasant duty to report when a business fails to fire as expected and is forced to pull down the shutters. Harder still is such a duty when those involved are not just good beer people but also good friends.
The Local Taphouse has had something of a Midas touch when it comes to ground-breaking new ideas and innovative events as well as a handy knack of giving new life to existing concepts. From in-house SpecTAPulars to the recent off-site extravaganza as part of Good Beer Week through to Q & Ales sessions with various brewers, Ale Stars beer appreciation club and countless themed beer dinners not to mention a sack-full of regular non-beer community functions such as Local Laughs Comedy and film festivals. The crew at the taphouse have never been afraid to test the market.
In the middle of June last year Steve and Guy opened the doors of The Local Bottle Store & Provisions and threw the keys to Taphouse stalwart and ever-reliable James ‘Not the Crafty Pint One’ Smith to allow the loyal Taphouse regulars and locals to take away a taste of the best craft beer and gourmet delights that Australia and the world had to offer. A state-of-the-art growler filling station pouring two different beers and plumbed to extend that output to sixteen if required was the prime feature along with a traditional continental deli feel and welcoming décor.
An olde worlde feel and friendly and knowledgeable service coupled with a broad range of offerings set the B & P apart as a place designed to engage and fulfil its customers’ needs and was set apart from the core Taphouse business but stamped with the same seal. Business synergies were planned so that the Taphouse kitchen could soon add a range of housemade produce to the growing stock of gourmet foods available.
But the next step in the extension of the Taphouse brand opened just as the retail beer landscape began to slowly transform. Where once the Taphouse and the few other quality specialist beer shops in Melbourne’s inner suburbs might have had the growing craft beer market to themselves there was now a threat bigger than a GFC or a shift in consumer sentiment. Suddenly beers that were once the preserve of the specialists became available to (or came to the attention of) the big players like Coles and Woolworths.
Beers of the calibre and ‘street cred’ of Sierra Nevada were suddenly available in even modest Woolworth’s outlets for, initially, under $20 a six-pack. The same beer (arguably ‘better’ due to caring stewardship) available in the Taphouse B & P was nearly 25% more expensive. The ability to grab some ‘Jimmy and coke’ and a bottle of ‘Sauvvy B’ for the missus at the same time was an offer that led many potential customers to choose the convenience of the duopoly.
The upshot of all this is that the decision has been made to close the doors on The Local Bottlestore & Provisions for the last time at close of business today (Sunday June 17). While the factors referred to earlier are only part of a bigger picture, the commercial reality is that it is more viable to have the store closed than it is to remain open.
The good news, however, is that the 2ltr Growler and 1ltr Squealer fills will still be available and the space will, in the near future, become another function space for visitors to The Local Taphouse.
Taphouse co-owner Guy Greenstone said; “While we are sad that the concept was not viable we are so grateful to both our staff and our loyal customers for giving it the best shot at succeeding. We were running on such small margins that we soon realised that the only way to make a real go of the Bottlestore & Provisions was to do a much bigger volume than we could in that space.” So does that signal the end of the experiment for evermore? Guy was quick to assure Brews News that while the full retail model may not be repeated the team had not ruled out another crack at some aspects of the experiment in the future.
Consistent with the attitude the Taphouse has had to treating its people as a resource rather than a burden Guy was also pleased that the small staff of the B & P had all been retained within the Taphouse businesses. “They gave it their all and, while we have had to make the decision to close the shop it’s great that the staff have agreed to stay on in other roles” Guy said. “We can also announce that we will have a massive clearance next weekend [ June 23rd and 24th] so our customers can come and help us clear the space for the new area to become part of the Taphouse.”
As the doors shut and a sub-chapter of the still vibrant and innovative Taphouse business comes to a close we can look at the situation and post ‘sad face’ Tweets or we can be happy-faced that they gave it a red hot go and look forward to the next phase of the journey.