Almost four years to the day after opening, Liberation Brewing Company in Bixby Knolls is set to close April 30 after months of the pandemic’s stranglehold on the business, the owners announced today.
The brewery, the brainchild of former Reel Big Fish trombonist Dan Regan, had a soft opening on April 19, 2018, and celebrated its grand opening less than two weeks later on May 3. Since then, the taproom has served the community cold beer and served as a hub for political conversations and community events.
“We’re pretty shell shocked right now,” Regan told the Post in a phone interview.
About one and a half years after opening, Regan said the brewery had its first profitable month. The owners had partnered with Nashville hot chicken gurus Fire Bird to set up shop inside Liberation as a “cohabitating domestic life partner” and everything was falling into place.
“We finally sort of dialed in the events and the formula,” Regan said. “We really saw everything clicking those three months before COVID.”
Early in the pandemic, the chicken-beer partnership was extremely beneficial because having a permanent food vendor and the proper license allowed the brewery to reopen sooner than many other businesses, Regan said.
In September 2021, however, the hot chicken vendor closed up shop, leaving Liberation to cover the sizable monthly rent for the 4,800-square-foot building on Atlantic Avenue. Though operating, the toll from the pandemic continued to worsen.
“We kept rolling as long as we could but the writing was on the wall months ago,” Regan said. “It’s sobering.”
While the closure of their first beer brewing business has been a tremendous blow, the entrepreneurs say they have some “irons in the fire,” which could see Liberation live on in another form. Working with a developer to take up residence on the ground floor of a mixed-use building is one option, Regan said, or seeking other partners to build out a new space.
Beer production stopped two weeks ago, Regan said, and the brewery should have plenty of stock to carry them through the end—and then some. The group is looking into changing its Alcoholic Beverage Control license to allow for the sale of its bottled beer at bottle shops, farmers markets and festivals.
If the beer taps out, Regan said there is always the option of contracting with another local brewery to produce big, single runs for Liberation.
Whatever the future holds for Liberation, Regan said the goal is to remain in the Long Beach area, where he and the rest of the team lives. Over the past four years, Liberation owners—Regan, Michael Clements and Eric McLaughlin— solidified themselves as being community-centric, hosting local events such as Beer & Politics discussions, concerts, dinners, community meetings and more.
“We tried to focus on local issues with regular people,” Regan said, adding that Long Beach’s beer scene is as diverse as its residents. “That’s why we wanted to set up a brewery here.”
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