Idle Hands Brewing, one of the first “nano” breweries to open in greater Boston, announced last week it was closing its Everett brewing facility as part of a planned roadway construction project tied to the beleaguered Wynn casino being erected there. In its aftermath, accusations of an affront against the little guy soon followed.
But the fact of the matter is, founder and head brewer Chris Tkach was well aware this was in the works for over a year (he says they’re eyeballing a new spot that could happen in late summer). As the Wynn project progressed, he realized it would impact his building, but he was fine with that. “We [were] going to need to leave [that] place soon anyways,” he says.
When did you start poking around for a potential new facility once you were aware that the clock was ticking for Everett?
We started in earnest last summer, looking at spots in and around Boston, trying to find a location that would work for us and for what we want to do with Idle Hands. I must’ve looked at 30, 40 places stretching from Salem all the way to Dorchester, and I just couldn’t really locate anything that I felt was what would be conducive to what we [want] to build.
What are you looking for from a new place?
Higher visibility, nicer facility, parking, public transportation accessible, you know; we want to create a [place] people can sit down and have a glass of [beer]. Finding that property has proven to be incredibly difficult. We had our eye on a place in Union Square that ended up just not working out due to political reasons.
The viable real estate for independent locally owned businesses is an ongoing problem that doesn’t seem close to being fixed.
[It’s] just the sheer fact of what’s happening with property in and around the Boston area, warehouses and stuff like that—they’re all getting either torn down or redeveloped and turned into condos, lofts, mixed use properties, things that just aren’t conducive to manufacturing. So all of these small manufacturing companies such as ourselves are getting pushed further and further outside of the Boston area because you can’t find affordable lands to do this anymore.
Let’s talk a little nitty-gritty on the beer now that you’re out of the location at this point.
We stopped brewing five or six weeks ago; we have no more beer to sell. It’s a difficult situation that we’re in right now. We were asked to vacate by the end of June; we are unable to do that because we don’t have any place to go to yet. I have no place to move anything, and so we’re trying to buy ourselves some additional time in this space by doing some legal maneuvering to hopefully get the lease signed on the space that we want to have, so that we only have to move stuff into one spot versus moving it into storage and have to move it again. But we closed down the kitchen, and last weekend was our last weekend of operations in terms of the retail side of the business, and now we’re basically [trying] to keep beer in the market.
You’re still going to produce in small batches through Night Shift Brewing though, right?
We’re not brewing any of our normal lineup beers over at Night Shift. We made a conscious decision not to do that because I don’t want flavor variations that are going to result. So everything we’re doing over there is new … more seasonally oriented styles of beer that we know is going to move fast and it’s all going be draft only. I believe Night Shift is planning on serving some of it in their taproom as well.
It seems like the current landscape makes it impossible for anybody other than a large scale chain or a bank to afford the skyrocketing rents for manufacturers and retail storefronts. It’s systemic.
You’re right, it absolutely is, and you start dumbing down the community-feel of things by just putting up [those] types of institutions. And the money doesn’t necessarily go back to the local community in those scenarios, which I think is a big issue. I’m not sure everybody realizes that. In the end the millions and millions of dollars that that property is generating is not going back to somebody that’s sitting in Everett. [It’s] going some place else.
Dan is a freelance journalist and has written for publications including Vice, Esquire, the Daily Beast, Fast Company, Pacific Standard, MEL, Leafly, Thrillist, and DigBoston.