Boom Island Brewing Company eyeing west suburbs for new location

Boom Island Co-owner Kevin Welch // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Boom Island co-owner Kevin Welch // Photo by Aaron Davidson

After almost eight years calling the Hawthorne/Near North neighborhood of Minneapolis home, Boom Island Brewing Company on Saturday, September 8, announced it would be seeking a new location. The decision came after four people were shot just steps from the brewery on Friday, September 7. One of the shooting victims died.

The company launched a capital campaign this week to raise money for a new location, which will likely be in the west suburbs, Boom Island co-owner Kevin Welch says. “I’d really, really love to stay in Minneapolis, but the prime locations are in Minnetonka or Plymouth at this point. […] I really want to be here; Minneapolis is great and I love Minneapolis, but I’m not sure it’s possible to keep the brewery here.”

Welch and his wife and business partner, Qiuxia, founded the Belgian-style brewery in 2010, just before the craft beer craze fully hit Minnesota. He says they chose their original location, which was two blocks from their current building at 2014 Washington Ave. N., for financial reasons. “My wife and I started this business on cash, and [that location] was very affordable,” he told The Growler on Monday. “We had hopes that the neighborhood would change.”

Instead, Welch says crime is just as bad today as it was eight years ago: “We hear police sirens every night and there’s constant drug violence.”

Welch cites safety concerns as the reasoning behind the decision to close the taproom at 9pm every night—a significant choice given the importance of taproom sales for craft breweries’ profit margins. “Even though that’s the exact time that sales in taprooms pick up, we choose to forfeit 50 percent of our sales voluntarily just so our customers can get back to their cars and not get shot,” Welch says. “That’s more blunt than I would have said it last year, but that’s the whole reason behind why that decision was made.”

Whether or not Welch’s estimate of lost sales is accurate, it’s certainly the case that taprooms are an indispensable tool in the belt of brewery owners to keep their businesses viable in today’s competitive market. “Pryes [Brewing Company] is jam-packed every night,” he says. “It’s right on the river and just three blocks south of us, but it’s technically in the North Loop, whereas we are in North Minneapolis.” The half-mile difference comes at a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in taproom sales, according to Welch’s estimate. In the face of the recent shooting, Welch says he felt he had no choice but to move in order to stay competitive in the ever-growing craft beer market.

Learn more about the brewery’s decision here.