Update: Hellbender was approved for a new liquor license on April 27th, 5 weeks after they shut down
Hellbender Brewing Company, which opened in November 2014, has not been open since last Friday, March 18th. On Saturday, the brewery posted a message on their Instagram, stating that they had “reached a critical mass of routine and essential repairs and maintenance in the brewery, and will be closing the taproom today and tomorrow to ensure we can keep providing great beer and ambiance.” They are normally closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and again posted Wednesday afternoon (3/23) that their “Taproom Will be Closed Until Further Notice.”
I’ve learned that the popular brewery has been closed, not necessarily due to repairs, but because their ABRA manufacturer Class B (brewery) liquor license was cancelled by the ABC Board on November 18, 2020 because they failed to meet the September 30, 2020 renewal deadline and failed to respond to a cease and desist order on October 28, 2020. Meaning, Hellbender has been operating (likely completely unintentionally) without a liquor license for 16 months.
Either ABRA or the brewery itself must have figured this out last week, as the brewery made a request to the ABC Board last Friday to reinstate their cancelled license (see page 6), the last day they were open. Today (Wed March 23rd), the ABC Board met and voted unanimously to deny their request to reinstate the cancelled license (order that will be posted by end of the week may contain the rationale).
So what does this mean? Without a liquor license, Hellbender cannot, of course, open its tap room to the public. But it also means it cannot produce beer and sell cans or kegs to liquor stores, grocery stores, consumers, and bars. I think anything that’s already been sold or distributed can be sold, but unless they get some sort of reprieve, nothing new can be made or leave the premises. Hellbender would have to re-apply for a manufacturer’s liquor license. Luckily for them, manufacturer licenses aren’t currently required to go through the same protest process as bars/restaurants, and I’ve seen applications seemingly approved pretty quickly. However, the fact that they had this mistake may lead to ABRA/ABC Board slowing down the process. Hellbender filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2016.