The news broke from several fronts simultaneously--Elizabeth Large's "Dining @ Large" blog and Sam Sessa's "Midnight Sun" blog at the Baltimore Sun's website, the City Paper's "Feedbag" blog, and a couple e-mails and other blogs--that DuClaw Brewing is closing its Fells Point location tonight.
Speculation runs rampant as to the reasons, with several folks suggesting the place did not have enough business and had bad service and/or beer. That was never the case when I was there--it was always consistently busy and crowded with a seemingly loyal crowd and good, solid beers. However, Sam's Midnight Sun blog says:
[Company owner David] Benfield said a disagreement with the building's landlord, dwindling business in the winter months and the smoking ban contributed to the decision to shutter the business. The company's other locations will remain open, Benfield said.This sounds hauntingly similar to the huge rent increase that sparked the decision of Capital City Brewing Co. to pull out of its Inner Harbor location several years ago. But there are also recent reports of legal troubles.......
Looks like I have another "brew pub wake" to attend tonight............
On the other hand, there was good news in that the next batch of DuClaw's Colossus barleywine, its entry into the ultimate-beer sweepstakes, brewed in 2006 and aged nearly four years, will be bottled and sent out to retail markets in January, with a reported proice of $21.99/22-ouncer. This sure beats the extremely-limited-release they did a while back of their first batch, where you practically had to "know the secret handshake" to be offered a bottle at all, and I recall the price being much higher than that..........
UPDATE: I received the following mass e-mail from DuClaw's e-mail newsletter list a short while ago:
It is with great sadness that we announce the closing of our restaurant in Fells Point on 12/31/2009. While speculation, bizarre conspiracy theories and criticism will run rampant, the simple fact of the matter is that for whatever reason, Fells Point was never quite the right fit for us and vice versa. So, with three thriving restaurants, bottled beer in liquor stores and a franchise location coming soon, now seemed like the right time to pull out of an area in which we never felt truly comfortable.
For the last 5 years, we had some great, loyal customers and employees. Thank you to everyone that ate, drank and worked with us in Fells Point; we’ll miss you. You are all still more than welcome to join us in Bel Air, Arundel Mills and Bowie for the same great beer, food and wine, to use your Pint Club memberships, or redeem gift cards purchased through the Fells Point restaurant. We’re still around, so come see us!
We’ll miss Fells Point, our regulars and staff, but it’s time to say goodbye. You win some, you lose some.
Dave Benfield, President
DuClaw Brewing Company