A Downtown Duluth brewery and taproom is moving into a larger, newly renovated space just an axe-toss away from its existing location on East Superior Street.
Blacklist Brewing Company will move its brewing operations, taproom and axe-throwing lanes one block east into the historic Lange Motors building at 206 E. Superior St. The move will almost double its serving and entertainment space and increase its brewing capacity.
Mark Cool, a partner in the Blacklist ownership group, said the brewery had outgrown its location at 120 E. Superior St. prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said state-imposed capacity limits designed to fight coronavirus spread emphasized the need for a bigger taproom while brewing operations had no place to expand in the basement.
“So it was one of those things where just like this we don’t have any room for anything,” said Cool. “We need more room — plain and simple — so we took the jump.”
Blacklist Brewing will lease the basement and Superior Street ground floor from building owners OCH Bookstore LLC, based in Altoona, Wis. Blacklist plans to move brewing equipment this spring and reopen a taproom at the new location in August.
According to the Duluth history website Zenith City Online, the Lange Motors building was constructed in 1915 and served as a showroom and service center for a variety of automakers — including REO Speedwagon — until the 1950s. The building housed restaurants, a state motor vehicle office and an auction house among other things until it was taken over by R.O. Carlson Used Book and Record in 1987. Carlson Book closed in 2003.
After sitting for years in disrepair, a renovation was launched in 2014 by Duluth bar and restaurant developer Rod Raymond. OCH Bookstore LLC and its general contractor Hoeft Builders Inc. took over in 2018 and completed the work in 2019.
Building ownership partner Robb Majeski said work included a new roof, heating and air conditioning, sprinkler system installation and an elevator. The 11,000-square-foot upper floor remains available for lease.
Majeski said the new Blacklist space will be a good addition to the Duluth Historic Arts and Theater District. He said the brewery will give the building and the neighborhood new life.
“We’re thrilled,” he said. “It’s going to be a wonderful space — it will be very lively there and it’s huge. A huge step forward.”
Raymond will continue to lease basement space on the Michigan Street side of the building for Brewhouse operations, said Majeski.
Cool said Blacklist is excited to have room for expansion so close to its current location.
“I’m sure a lot of people are scratching their head — to make this move during COVID — but we had to,” he said. “We were busting at the seams.”
Blacklist was founded in Downtown Duluth by co-owner and head brewer Brian Schanzenbach in 2012. The brewery moved to its current location — the former Last Place on Earth building — in 2016. It is the second-oldest active beer brewery in Duluth behind Fitger’s Brewhouse, which opened in 1995. Both will slide back a notch on the list when Lake Superior Brewing Company, founded in 1994, reopens under new ownership later this year.
Cool said the current Blacklist taproom has a maximum capacity of 137 patrons — cut down to approximately 50 under COVID-19 restrictions. The new 4,000-square-foot space will nearly double the size and increase restricted capacity levels — which could continue into 2022.
The new taproom will have the same high-ceiling industrial look and exposed-brick feel of the existing space. It will have outdoor, sidewalk seating, a live-music stage and a special 500-square-foot area for axe throwing — a signature activity introduced at Blacklist in 2019.
Cool said brewing operations are currently jammed into a 2,500-square-foot basement. The new basement brewing area will be 4,000 square feet. In addition to taproom sales, Blacklist Brewing Company distributes to 650 liquor and beer stores throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.
“Our distribution channel is huge,” said Cool. “We’re very, very thankful for that because during COVID — liquor stores — people have lived at liquor stores, I think.”
With just one block between the old and new space, moving its 10-kettle brewing system should be fast and efficient, said Cool. Duluth-based Foundation Architects will design the new space. “We want to get everything over there and start the summer off right,” he said.
According to St. Louis County tax records, Cool and business partner Tyler Kocon own the Blacklist building where offices of their Split Rock Private Trading Company are located on the third floor. The building was constructed as a hotel in 1908 and later housed the infamous Last Place on Earth head shop from 1996-2013. Cool said plans for the property are yet to be determined.
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