San Diego-based Ballast Point Brewing tried to make a statement three years ago when it opened its brewpub in the West Loop. The venue — with a rooftop deck offering scenic views of the skyline — was meant as a declaration that Ballast Point was ready to court Chicago beer drinkers on their competitive home turf, to give the California company more credence as a national brand. Now, three years later, the brewery — under new ownership— has announced that brewpub’s closure.
The shutter of the officially named Ballast Point Tasting Room and Kitchen leaves a large vacancy for a restaurant in a Chicago neighborhood where spaces are scarce. It’s also another twist in Ballast Point’s story, one where a local entrepreneur made an unlikely transaction in 2019 in purchasing the brewery from Constellation Brands, a giant company with labels like Corona, Modelo, and Pacifico in its portfolio. Kings & Convicts, a brewery in Highwood, took over Ballast Point in 2019. Breweries, even ones with resources like Ballast Point’s former parent, aren’t always natural fits to run a restaurant. That’s why many prefer soliciting the services of a food truck to provide food for customers.
Still, Kings & Convicts pledged shortly after the sale to keep the Chicago brewpub open. As companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks feel its brands benefit from a West Loop presence, many of that could apply to Ballast Point. However, operating a restaurant is a daunting challenge during a pandemic even for the most seasoned industry member.
Ballast Point’s owner Brendan Watters tells the Tribune that the pandemic gave the company a chance to figure out its priorities. The company, via a news release, announced it will open a brewpub — first announced in 2018 — in San Francisco by the end of the year. Southern California is the company’s focus.