08 July 2016

Lagunitas opens two community rooms for non-profit fundraisers

It’s a new kind of philanthropy: Lagunitas’ founder Tony Magee, 55, announced on 29 June 2016 he will open venues in two of the nation’s brewing hotbeds — Portland, Oregon, and San Diego, California — to be used exclusively by non-profit agencies for fundraising.

Lagunitas will provide the space, beer and staff gratis, as it already does two nights a week at its Chicago and Petaluma, California, taprooms.

Founded in 1993, Lagunitas became the sixth-largest craft brewer in the U.S. in 2015, with two breweries in Petaluma and Chicago, plus one to open outside of Los Angeles. In 2015 it produced about 1 million hl beer. Also last year Mr Magee sold a 50 percent stake in the company to Heineken in a deal estimated at USD 500 million.

As Mr Magee explained to media, he did not want to go into these cities to open a taproom because it would have been a big expense and risky. He feared that the taproom may not be in the right neighbourhood and that retailers would complain he is invading their territory.

But when considering what his taprooms in Chicago and Petaluma do best, he saw that it was handing the taprooms over two nights a week to non-profit groups. In Portland and San Diego Mr Magee will expand this concept from two nights per week to a permanent arrangement.

These community rooms, each called – long-windedly – A Purely Non-Profit Fund Raising Community Room, will not have liquor licenses. Lagunitas will just be renting the space to make it available and will provide the staff, the beer and the room free. If things go right, they will be open 250 to 300 days per year.

Lagunitas’ community room in Portland will open in August 2016 and the one in San Diego in January 2017.

Bona fide non-profit organisations can apply to Lagunitas for use of these community rooms. All proceeds from the sale of beer will go to these organisations.

"We believe that beer is the original social media and we know that the best way to connect with beer lovers is face to face, over a beer," Lagunitas said.

Media say that Lagunitas will join others beer-related companies in Portland whose mission includes community outreach. Those include Ex Novo Brewing in North Portland, a non-profit brewery, and northeastern Portland’s Oregon Public House, which hosts non-profit groups and contributes profits to social service groups.

For Lagunitas, these community rooms are as much about philanthropy as about connecting with its consumers. Mr Magee acknowledged that it is a challenge for long-established big craft brewers to stay relevant and connected to their consumers. Many of his bigger competitors try different things: building new breweries across the country, running festivals and brewing different beer styles. Mr Magee decided to opt for local footprints instead, which hopefully will allow him to stay close to his consumers.

Lagunitas also announced that on 28 June 2016 it bought stakes in three craft breweries - Santa Rosa, California; Charleston, South Carolina; and Austin, Texas - and will begin collaborative brewery/community ventures at those sites.

Terms were not released. All three equity stakes will be held by a new company called Lagunitas U.S. Holdings — or LUSH.

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