James Boag’s owner Lion said it’s shutting down the Launceston brewery’s popular hospitality and tour offerings due to the decline in beer consumption, rising costs and the pandemic’s impact on the hospitality and tourism industries.

Lion said in a statement that closing down the 160-year-old brewery’s bar and function hire and tours on January 30 would allow it to “keep… focus on brewing great tasting beer for Australia’s pubs, clubs, bars and liquor retailers”.

“The last few years have been very challenging for our business with overall beer consumption in decline, rising input costs and the impacts of COVID-19 on the hospitality and tourism industries,” Lion’s statement said.

“Sadly, this will result in some job impacts at the Boag’s Visitor Centre. We are incredibly grateful to these team members who have warmly hosted visitors and shared their passion for Boag’s with locals and tourists alike. We will be working with those impacted to offer our support, including through redeployment opportunities within the Lion business where possible.”

The closure will impact two permanent and 11 casual employees. Lion’s statement said the changes would have no impact on their brewing operations at Boag’s.

Regarding the Launceston venue, Boag’s own website says it’s “become a beating heart for the people of Tasmania. From employing generations of proud brewers, to celebrating weddings, achievements and milestones in our bars and amongst our beautiful historic site”.

But, speaking with the ABC, former longtime guide at the brewery Brock Kerslake said: “If you take away one of the main tourism icons from the city it has an impact on all the other operators because there’s less for people to do and less experiences for people to enjoy while they’re in town.

“I find it a shame that they’ve made this decision, visiting breweries around the world is very, very popular with tourists so it seems an incredibly unusual decision to make.”

Alongside visiting the Cataract Gorge Reserve and the City Park, a Boag’s Brewery tour is currently rated as the third “best thing to do” in Launceston on popular travel website Tripadvisor.

Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff said: “I am disappointed at this decision, which is a massive kick in the guts for both the workers at the site and the local Launceston economy.

“The Boag’s visitor centre has been an iconic drawcard for Launceston for decades that attracts visitors from across the country, and there’s no doubt its closure will be detrimental to the northern economy.”

In a statement, Tasmanian Hospitality Association (THA) CEO Steve Old said the pending closure of the Boag’s visitor centre could have been avoided had the State Government listened and acted on his advice.

The statement said Lion and the THA had been in dialogue with the Government over many years about the struggles the brewery was facing.

“The facts are the impacts from two years of Covid-19, coupled with rising costs associated with beer – the Federal Government implemented a tax hike of four per cent last August in the biggest jump in 30 years, plus rising energy costs, freight costs as well as the government ignoring industry advice on the CDS scheme they are going to implement that will put beer prices up for consumers – has put a monumental strain on hospitality businesses,” the THA CEO said.

“And to top everything off, TasWater only yesterday announced it is targeting some of Launceston’s biggest industrial groups, including Boag’s, to charge full costs for treating trade waste they generate.

“The Premier can say he is disappointed with the decision from Lion, but we are appalled at his refusal to act when he had the chance. His office was advised of this yesterday and did nothing, yet today, they come out swinging saying they were blindsided which is totally untrue.

“I have said to governments of all persuasions for many years that they need to take an active interest in working with the breweries. They are iconic to Tasmania but face many challenges year on year, and it would be far easier and cheaper to move them interstate to skip the freight and transport costs.

“I’m sure other governments around the country would jump at having one of our breweries move to their state and would offer whatever assistance they could to them and their staff.”

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