Massachusetts Brewery Faces Eviction Over Taproom Popularity

Austin Ray

THE GIST
A small Massachusetts craft brewery is battling its landlord, an area business park development agency, over the growing popularity of its own taproom.

Since launching in 2014, Iron Duke Brewing has occupied space in an industrial complex in Ludlow, Mass., where visitors can belly up to the bar, order from food trucks parked outside, and enjoy live music at night. Its landlord, however, contends the brewery “was permitted to set up primarily as a manufacturing operation” and is threatening the business with eviction, according the Boston Globe.

“The tasting room is not the intended primary use,” Westmass Area Development Corporation, which manages the property, wrote to the company last year. “Your growth and the activities occurring associated with your brewery has created liability issues.”

Not having a taproom, the company says, would effectively put the business under.

WHY IT MATTERS
The Globe reports Ludlow officials have sympathized with the company, while a number of nearby towns have already begun trying to court the business should it wind up homeless. Outside leaders have even voiced dismay at the whole kerfuffle in an apparent show of support from a distance.

That’s always nice to see. Immediate stakeholders can’t be the industry’s only cheerleaders if this thing is ever to function at full speed. But Iron Duke doesn’t want to move. To avoid paying the costs—not to mention straight up avoiding the hassle—associated with up and leaving to a new location, the company has launched a petition to raise awareness of its plight.

“Westmass will no longer allow a food truck or any form of entertainment on the grounds,” the company writes in its letter to consumers, pleading for support. “In addition they have denied several expansion requests even after the town government approved ALL permits.”
 
Speaking with MassLive, Iron Duke co-owner Nick Morin said the company sells beer off-site, but the taproom is its most important profit engine. And the company is confident that it has done nothing wrong.

“It's our feeling and our attorney's feeling that we have every right to continue to run the tap room the way we have for that last two and half years,” Morin told the website. “We have a lease that we can run the tap room.”

On the petition itself, Iron Duke says it anticipates expanding and creating between 12 and 15 new full time jobs over the next few years, a plan contingent on its ability to operate as it sees fit. It currently employs four people while operating at a minuscule capacity (it produced just 1,000 barrels in 2016).

To date, Iron Duke’s petition has received 3,593 signatures of the 5,000 it seeks.

As for the company’s landlord, its apprehension rings familiar: “Westmass is concerned that the success of the Iron Duke Brewery may have created public safety concerns,” chief Eric Nelson said in a brief voicemail to the Globe.

Nelson did not return GBH’s request for comment seeking clarification on what the exact public safety issues might be.

As of now, the company is still open in Ludlow. And they’ve even got a new beer to show for the trouble: “Eviction Notice Black IPA.”

—Dave Eisenberg
 
READ MORE
Craft brewer’s too popular for an industrial park, landlord says [Boston Globe]
Landlord dispute could lead to eviction for successful Iron Duke Brewery in Ludlow Mills complex [MassLive]