Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, the 20-year-old San Francisco brewery whose future was imperiled by crushing debt and an impending sale, has been sold for $2.5 million. The buyer is Hunters Point Brewery, a new company formed by a former beverage distributor, Ces Butner. The maker of popular beers like Big Daddy IPA had announced the shutdown of its brewery and taproom in early March, with founder Forest Gray citing “difficulty securing capital investment and outstanding debt obligations” as the reason. The brewery then reopened conditionally later in the month, as the brewery’s creditor looked for a buyer.
Now that buyer plans to reopen the brewery and taproom, with no changes currently planned to the lineup. In a statement on Speakeasy’s website, Butner said “Right now we just need to revive the Speakeasy brands, and I’m prepared to do just that.” Butner, who previously owned Horizon Beverage Company in Oakland, has worked with the brewery before, as one of the first distributors to sell the beer beyond SF; his familiarity with the brand is part of the seemingly seamless takeover.
There’s still a lot hanging in the balance, however, including the debt accrued by the company after a major upgrade in 2015 that cost $7.5 million. Butner is not on the hook to resolve that debt as it was an asset sale, but there are also five unresolved wage claims that have been filed against Speakeasy. (According to the state’s Department of Industrial Relations, all concern final pay.)
Though the purchasing entity is called Hunters Point Brewery (after Speakeasy’s location), it was created by Butner just for this purchase, not as a replacement for Speakeasy’s brand. In a statement, Butner said “I thought it would be a shame if the brand, and one of the few production breweries left in San Francisco, disappeared because of financial problems. Keeping Speakeasy’s San Francisco born and brewed tradition alive is very important to me.” A new VP, General Manager, and former employee of Butner, Sam Cappione, has been put in place to oversee operations, including the remaining eight employees who stayed on following the initial shutdown.
Expect to see some help wanted ads as the company regrows its staff in all departments, and hopefully rehires some former employees along the way. According to the brewery, the tap room will reopen as soon as possible; stay tuned.