Not everyone is excited about Lagunitas‘ new TapRoom and Beer Sanctuary opening this month at the historic 161 East Bay St. For some couples who booked their wedding receptions at Southend Brewery before Lagunitas bought it, news of the Petaluma, Calif.’s forthcoming remodel has thrown their plans into a tailspin.
“My fiancé and I had booked the private floor for a wedding reception. Due to the changes in decor, which seem to be taking on a much more casual, kitschy theme, we have no interest in continuing our plans with the venue,” says Jon Gentry. The groom booked Southend’s space at the end of November, but got a message last week notifying him of possible interior design changes. City Paper was forwarded a PDF Gentry and others were sent by Southend’s event planner as an example of Lagunitas’ other properties.
In the Petaluma Loft, for instance, a series of worn couches and chairs line the room. Above, a shelf of beer cans sits along the wall. It’s more 1970s basement romper room than High Victorian chic. Meanwhile in Chicago, Lagunitas’ huge warehouse space has been outfitted in bright purples and blues.
When we spoke to Karen Hamilton, Lagunitas’ marketing director, for our Beer issue, she said that the renovations to the 1880 building would be minor. “The building is already beautiful so just a little change in decor,” Hamilton said. Today she confirmed that the brewery will be changing the interior as they have said from the beginning. “It will be rebranded as a Lagunitas TapRoom & Beer Sanctuary. It will have a similar vibe to our spaces in Petaluma and Chicago but will also have it’s own unique personality shining through. Petaluma came first, Chicago has a similar vibe, but it’s more urban environment comes through. There are three floors in Charleston, so it will be the same but different from our other spaces.”
Hamilton added that event space renters would be receiving an updated email from Lagunitas with “all the specifics so they are completely informed.”
For some, however, that update is too late.
Another bride, who asked not to be named, echoed Gentry’s frustration. “It basically goes from rustic and historic to looking like someone’s garage. I know a lot of other people have been affected,” she said. The bride added that she’s since canceled her reception at 161 East Bay St. and is looking for another location. Her $500 deposit has been refunded in full, but with her wedding slated for March, that leaves her with less than six months to find a new venue in a city that, according to Charleston Weddings magazine, hosts 95 weddings each week and at an average cost of $3,477 per venue, as noted by the 2016 Wedding Report for South Carolina.
“We have some tours of other venues set up on Tuesday,” she added. “So fingers crossed.”