Moosehead calls off plan for small-batch brewery

A small-batch brewery planned for the Saint John harbourfront and run by Moosehead Breweries will not be going ahead, the company says.

Brewery was originally intended to open on the Saint John harbourfront by the end of 2017

Moosehead Breweries announced last year that it would build a small-batch brewery on Water Street in Saint John but has scrapped the plan. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

A small-batch brewery planned for the Saint John harbourfront and run by Moosehead Breweries will not be going ahead, the company says.

Karen Cousins, a spokesperson for Moosehead, cited budget shortfalls as the reason for the change of heart.

"The overall project costs ended up being significantly higher than anticipated," Cousins said Tuesday.  

"Following a number of redesigns and compromises, final estimates still did not meet the company's cost expectations. The project team was concerned any unanticipated expenditures during site preparation and construction would push final costs above acceptable levels. This is what prompted the difficult decision to cancel this project."

Possible future for craft brews

Andrew OIand, Moosehead president and CEO, said in a news release that the company still wants to expand its small-batch brewing and will work on new plans.

"The intention of our proposed brewery was for Moosehead to expand its small-batch brewing capability and to have a place to show our passion for beer," said Oland, whose family has been in the brewing business for 150 years.

"That goal has not been lost and we will now take a few months to regroup and develop alternate plans."

Gerald Stack, the union president for Moosehead workers, believes the brewery is still looking to expand into the craft beer market.

"They want to tap in on this market. ... obviously, craft beer's become an important segment of the beer business," said Stack.

Moosehead announced plans for the small-batch project in June, saying it would have a brewery, tap room and retail outlet. In September, a proposed location on Water Street, at the bottom of Princess Street, was chosen.

Community reaction

Saint John Mayor Don Darling was quick to release a statement saying the city was interested in working with the brewery in the future and tried to cast aside any doubts about the local economy.

"I want to be clear that this is not a lack of confidence in the city's economy," Darling said in a statement. 

"The waterfront development site at the Port of Saint John is a prime real estate opportunity. The entire uptown core and waterfront represents significant opportunities for development and growth." 

Saint John MP Wayne Long said the brewery had his full support, but in business these types of difficult decisions sometimes have to be made.

"Sometimes you have to make decisions that aren't popular," he said. "Sometimes you have to make decisions that are difficult but are best for your company.

"There's no harm in making a bad decision. There's only harm in sticking with that."

With files from Catherine Harrop