Deschutes pushes back Roanoke ground breaking originally planned for June 2019

Originally planned to break ground in Roanoke in June 2019

ROANOKE, Va. – Deschutes Brewery's plan to put a plant in Roanoke has now turned into a big question mark, according to its president. 

The company was originally slated to break ground in the Star City in June 2019, but that is no longer the case. 

"I wish I had a crystal ball, but I don't, so I don't know when we might break ground right now," said Michael Lalonde, president of Deschutes Brewery. 

According to Lalonde, the statement of "when we break ground" could easily turn into an "if."

"We are optimistic about our product and our company, but I can't say either way if we will build in Roanoke."

"We were sorry to hear that but we understood that it was a good business decision that they were making," said Rob Ledger, manager of economic development for the city of Roanoke. 

What's the reason for the delay?

"We are looking at our business growth in the craft beer market ... It is not the time to break ground right now," said Lalonde. "There are 7,000 craft breweries in the U.S. and 1,500 in planning.  The market has become diluted." 

According to Lalonde, beer lovers have recently started going to smaller, more local breweries over bigger names like Deschutes.

"Consumers' tastes have changed in terms of what they are looking for," said Lalonde.

Lalonde stated that the company's growth was down last year, but says it is meeting demand with the facility it already has.

Although the company has delayed its plans for now, Lalonde says it still plans to remain an active part of the community. 

"We have fallen in love with Roanoke. We like the Street Pub, and the tasting room has been successful.  We want to continue those activities," said Lalonde. 

In the meantime, Lalonde remains confident that there could be a time for Deschutes to call Roanoke home.

"We think there is a ... rebound out there, a turnaround at some point," said Lalonde.

"They're still excited, we're still excited. We anticipate that this is going to go smoothly after the new proposals come in," said Ledger. 

The original plan

Originally, the Oregon-based brewery had planned to break ground at the Roanoke Centre for Industry and Technology in June 2019. 

In an effort to show its commitment to Roanoke and the project, Deschutes bought the land for the brewery in cash for $3.2 million in June of this year from Roanoke. The brewery initially stated it would spend $95 million to build a brewery in Roanoke, creating 108 new jobs during the beginning stages of the site.

However, that doesn't mean that Deschutes can sit on the land indefinitely.

The brewery must submit a revised proposal to Roanoke by March 31, submit design plans by August 31, 2020, and start construction at the site by June 30, 2021. 

If the company doesn't stick to the timeline, the city can buy back the land for the price Deschutes paid for it. 

Lalonde has not notified the city of the change in plans, but says the company will in early 2019. 

About the Authors:

John Carlin co-anchors the 5, 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts on WSLS 10.