When we came to Williamsburg in late 1990, our neighbors were the longtime Polish, Italian and Latino residents as well as a few intrepid artists occupying lofts in the largely unoccupied industrial buildings. The main attraction was low rent, $3 a foot annually.
In 1996, we opened the doors of our new brewery on Friday nights. We were lucky to draw a dozen people. The only hip bar in Williamsburg was Teddy’s, continuously operated since the 1880s.
All that has changed, dramatically, and we now host about 4,000 visitors every weekend. Williamsburg is filled with bars, restaurants, clubs, art galleries and hotels. It is one of the hottest night life scenes in New York City.
So a few years ago, we began to come to grips with the reality that we likely would not be able to renew leases with our three landlords—a total of 70,000 square feet. Rents are now 10 times what they were 25 years ago. The Industrial Business Zone (IBZ) where the brewery is located also allows hotels and other commercial ventures like food markets and banks. For a developer, these uses are much more profitable than renting to a manufacturing business like ours.
Last year, we began working with the Brooklyn Navy Yard to develop a brewery, office headquarters and restaurant in the newly renovated Building 77 on Flushing Avenue. Navy Yard CEO David Ehrenberg did his best to accommodate our needs. (We already operate a warehouse in the Navy Yard for our wooden barrel-aged beers.)
At the same time, the deBlasio Administration signaled it was going to limit commercial development in the IBZs, requiring developers to include manufacturing businesses in their projects. Suddenly, two of our three landlords announced they were open to extending our leases in Williamsburg. (Our third lease is a warehouse across the street from the brewery; it is not in the IBZ. It is in a mixed-use zone. That means it will likely be developed for housing or commercial uses.)
Our leases don’t expire until 2025. And we are hopeful that we will be able to extend them way beyond that year.
In the meantime, Building 77 is filling up quickly. Ehrenberg said 90% of the building is leased, much of it by small manufacturers like us.
Said Ehrenberg: “We’re here for manufacturers that need long-term or reduced-cost space to stay or grow in New York City. When a company like Brooklyn Brewery has a path to stay in its own private space, it’s an opportunity for the Navy Yard to support other emerging businesses. We’ve had overwhelming demand by food and beverage manufacturers to be part of Building 77’s food hall, and we look forward to combing through the waitlist to fill out the space and open next year.”
Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen added: “I want to see manufacturers thriving not only in our assets like the Navy Yard, but across the city. That’s why we’re working to increase protections that help local firms stay put and grow without being forced out. From where I sit, keeping the brewery at its home in Williamsburg would be a coup, and it means the Navy Yard can use its scarce space to boost the next multi-million dollar Brooklyn brand.”
The Williamsburg location is larger than the Navy Yard site. We look forward to maintaining a substantial brewing operation and expanding our office space, and possibly developing a restaurant and beer hall in Williamsburg, our home for the last 26 years.
“We have been looking for a long term site for the brewery for several years, fearing that our leases would not be renewed,” said CEO Eric Ottaway. “The City’s proposed industrial protections have strengthened our hand, and we are now in talks with two of our landlords about extending beyond 2025. We believe there’s a real path to keep our footprint in Williamsburg where we started this business 25 years ago. We appreciate the Navy Yard’s flexibility, and the City’s commitment to keeping employers like the Brewery in the five boroughs.”
Steve Hindy, Founder and Chairman of The Brooklyn BreweryBack to all blog posts