The owner of Adelaide’s West End brewery announced yesterday that it would stop brewing beer at the Thebarton site in June next year, with the loss of 94 jobs.
But apart from the famous “red tins” being made interstate, what does the closure mean for jobs, local sports sponsorships, community events and the facility itself?
Site an opportunity for developers
The West End brewery sits on an 8-hectare site on Port Road at Thebarton, just across the River Torrens from the Adelaide Entertainment Centre and about 1.7 kilometres from Adelaide’s CBD.
Beer has been brewed at the location since 1886, first as the Torrenside Brewery, then the Southwark Brewery and finally West End from 1980.
The West End brewery had been located at Hindley Street since 1859 before moving to Thebarton.
The area is currently zoned industrial, unlike most of the western side of Port Road in Thebarton, which is designated as an “urban corridor” allowing multi-storey apartment buildings.
The State Government and the local council, the City of West Torrens, have been encouraging residential development since the tramline to Hindmarsh opened in 2010, however for now no new apartments have been built along Port Road.
The nearby Coca-Cola factory stopped production in 2018 and was sold to a developer last year.
Premier Steven Marshall said he had already spoken to his deputy, Planning Minister Vickie Chapman, about how the site’s zoning could be changed to allow residential and retail development.
Lion plans to sell the land for development.
Urban Development Institute of Australia SA chief executive Pat Gerace said the State Government might need to help with remediation of the industrial land, but otherwise it was prime for developers.
“It does present an opportunity for that particular part of Adelaide to be transformed into a new boulevard really,” Mr Gerace said.
“It makes absolute sense that it’s used for something like residential, maybe some retail in there as well.”
Government not buying
The Premier ruled out the Government buying the land, like it has done in the past with other inner-city industrial land, or using it for a sports stadium.
“I wouldn’t think so. It’s private land and I can’t see a situation where the Government would be purchasing that land,” Mr Marshall said.
“Of course, you’ve got Hindmarsh Stadium just around the corner and the Adelaide Oval not that far away as well.”
While the Adelaide Crows have been looking for a new city headquarters, incoming chairman John Olsen poured cold water on the club moving to Thebarton.
The former premier told ABC Radio Adelaide’s David Bevan the West End site would be more suitable for residential development and had issues with remediation.
“The Crows will review any options that come up but I am not in the chair until the end of the month,” Mr Olsen said.
West End sponsors various sports teams and leagues in South Australia, with a focus on the SANFL and cricket.
Regional sales director Jason Baily said Lion was “absolutely committed to continue our sponsorships across all leagues and competitions and all clubs”.
“West End has been part of South Australia for 160 years,” he said.
“We sponsor many leagues and competitions and hundreds of local sporting clubs, as well as being the custodian of some iconic community events.”
The brewery’s chimney has been painted in the colours of the SANFL premier since 1954, with the runner-up getting their colours painted smaller below.
Both the Premier and Lion group supply chain director Ian Roberts said they would like the tradition to continue.
“We need to work our way though how that might happen.
“In time, we will be able to outline all of the traditions that we’ve committed to — they will all continue or be renewed in some fashion.”
Push to preserve Christmas lights
The brewery’s Christmas lights also seem to have a secure future, although they will not be happening this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Each year, the south bank of the River Torrens, just outside the brewery, is festooned with lights and other decorations to mark the festive season, attracting about 300,000 visitors annually.
Mr Marshall said he “100 per cent” wanted to secure the Christmas lights.
“We’ve already spoken to Lion about that,” he said.
The Adelaide Central Rotary Club runs barbecues during the launch of the lights each year.
Club president Glenda Sherwin-Lane said losing the fundraiser this year, along with other events the club helps out at, was a big blow in terms of money and visibility.
“It’s sad for us but sad the state too,” Ms Sherwin-Lane said.
Beer sales down but not out
West End and Southwark beer will be made interstate.
Lion blamed changing consumer tastes — moving to craft beer and wine — hurting sales, and then the coronavirus pandemic further hit draught beer sale at pubs.
“The beer market in Australia continues to decline,” Lion managing director James Brindley said yesterday.
“It’s now at its lowest per capita consumption ever recorded in Australia.
“At the same time, there are about 700 new craft breweries, so the competition is intense.”
The owner of Thebarton’s Southwark Hotel, Sam Ferguson, said West End was still the number one selling draught beer at his pub, which is frequented by brewery workers.
“I think it’s more of a blue-collar older gentlemen’s type beer rather than the younger generation — I think the younger generation is drinking craft.”
Jason Baily, from Lion, said there was a chance the company could set up “a small, new brewing presence some form, somehow”.
“I am sure we would all love that at some stage in the future so that West End can continue to have a spiritual home in this state,” he said.