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As Anchor Brewing Closes, Liquidates Business, Workers Hope for a Miracle

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Signage on the top of a multistory building reads "Anchor Brewing."
The facade of Anchor Brewing in San Francisco on March 11, 2019. (Stephanie Lister/KQED)

There’s one less bottle of beer on the wall.

After more than 127 years of brewing in San Francisco, Anchor Brewing will soon bottle its last beer, the company announced Wednesday.

Financial challenges have been bubbling since 2016 at the beverage company, which is widely considered the oldest craft brewery in the country. The company said, in a press release, it has already stopped beer production at its Potrero Hill headquarters and plans to liquidate the business, which involves a state-appointed assignee to sell off assets and pay off creditors.

Anchor Public Taps brewpub will remain open until Aug. 1, and the company will continue to package and distribute the beer it has remaining through the end of the month.

“Unfortunately, today’s economic pressures have made the business no longer sustainable, and we had to make the heartbreaking decision to cease operations,” Sam Singer, spokesperson for Anchor Brewing, said in the company’s announcement. “The impacts of the pandemic, inflation, especially in San Francisco, and a highly competitive market left the company with no option but to make this sad decision to cease operations.”

a flag, that says Anchor, is upside down on a pole above a building
Anchor Brewing flew its flag upside down above the Potrero Hill headquarters on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Billy Cruz/KQED)

A spokesperson said the brewery’s 61 workers will receive a 60-day notice and be provided separation packages.

Brewery workers, upset to find out the news on Wednesday, told KQED that marketing and distribution had fallen short since the sale to Sapporo Holdings Limited in 2017.

“We saw that there were issues. Production has been down because of sales. Members were going to bars and they were asking about Anchor and couldn’t get it,” said Pedro Sá, union representative for the brewery workers. “But it wasn’t about people not wanting it, it was this issue of not knowing the market they had and who they were trying to sell to.”

Mayor London Breed and other city leaders said they were disappointed to see another local legacy business close down.

“The news of Anchor Brewing is upsetting,” Breed told KQED. “The brewery has been a San Francisco staple for 127 years, making beer that has been sent all over the world.”

Supervisor Shamann Walton, whose district includes Potrero Hill, said he’s extremely disappointed to lose the institution. “It was just important to the neighborhood, and now we have a loss of jobs. This will make a big impact on the community and the area,” he said.

Walton tied the loss to years-long challenges with retail and local businesses struggling in the face of an online shopping boom and other pandemic-related economic downturns.

“There was a lot of writing on the wall of what might happen to retail and brick-and-mortar businesses even before the pandemic, and the pandemic has accelerated the loss of business,” Walton told KQED.

Beer sales have been on the decline for Anchor Brewing for several years. Earlier this summer, the company announced that it was pulling back its distribution and planned to sell only in California. It also ended sales of Anchor Brewing’s popular Christmas Ale.

In 2019, brewers at the company voted to unionize, citing high living costs in San Francisco. That move came just two years after the company was bought by Japan-based Sapporo.

Sapporo had been looking for a buyer for Anchor Brewing over the last year, but was unsuccessful in doing so, according to a company representative. Sapporo also bought the larger San Diego-based Stone Brewing this past fall.

A buyer could still come forward during the liquidation process, however.

“It is the hope of the Anchor team that such an outcome comes to fruition, however, all decisions about the future will be in the hands of the independent, third-party,” the company said in its announcement, referring to the state-appointed entity that will sell off its assets.

Sá, the union rep, said workers are hoping for a miracle.

“We want this place to stay open, to get people working here again,” he said. “We can’t continue on this trend of industry just leaving and having people hanging out to dry.”

KQED reporter Billy Cruz contributed to this story.

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