Boag’s Brewery, an iconic Tasmanian business renowned for its traditional brewing methods and classic beers, announced on the 19th of January 2023 that its highly-regarded visitor Centre would be closing its doors.
The decision to shutter the beloved tourist attraction, which has been a cornerstone of Launceston’s tourism for decades was met with dismay from both locals and tourists alike.
The brewery, which was established in 1881, has long been a staple of Tasmanian culture and heritage. Its visitor Centre, which offered tours of the brewery and tastings of its famous beers, has become a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. However, the brewery’s financial difficulties with an overall beer consumption decline and the rising costs and impacts of COVID-19 ultimately led to its decision to close.
Launceston Mayor Danny Gibson expressed his disappointment and said the news was “a significant blow” to Launceston’s visitor economy.
“The visitor Centre and brewery tours are consistently ranked extremely highly by visitors to Launceston through feedback to the Launceston Visitor Information Centre and through a range of tourism review websites.” Mayor Gibson said.
Mayor Gibson said the James Boag Brewery Experience was ranked by TripAdvisor visitors as one of Launceston’s top three most popular activities, alongside other iconic destinations such as the Cataract Gorge and City Park.
Lion issued a statement on the day of the announcement and stated that the closure of the visitor Centre would allow them to keep their focus on brewing great-tasting beer for Australia’s pubs, clubs, bars, and liquor retailers.
In the same statement, Nathan Calman, Director of Boag’s Brewery, expressed his understanding of the community’s disappointment at the news of the closure.
“The reality is that we are facing a number of sharply rising cost and regulatory pressures across our business and here in Tasmania specifically, including the cost of energy increasing by over 50 percent, trade waste treatment costs, and rising transport costs that have led us to make the tough call to simplify our operations and focus on brewing at Boag’s. These all come off the back of a very challenging period for the industry, which is yet to recover to pre-covid levels.”
Independent Member of the Legislative Council for Launceston, Rosemary Armitage, commented on the announcement stating every hospitality venue had done it tough over the last three years however, with visitor numbers climbing and tourism turning the corner, things are looking up.
“Tasmania has been a shining light when it comes to COVID recovery, with tourists flocking here, and we simply cannot allow decisions in distant board rooms, with little or no heart, to close a major Launceston tourism experience such as the Boag’s Visitor Centre including the loss of 13 jobs.”
“It is good to see bipartisan support to keep the Centre open and it is imperative that we all show the Boards of both Lion and parent company Kirin Beer that our Launceston community will not stand by and see an iconic brewery founded in 1881 slowly pulled apart piece by piece.”
“Having raised concern regarding rumours of downgrading of Boag’s in 2020 with then Managing Director James Brindley and being assured of its future, I believe it is essential we continue to speak with those in control and strongly reiterate Boag’s importance to our city.”
“Boag’s is part of Launceston’s history, employs a large number of our citizens, and we must do all in our power to ensure it is here for many years to come.”
Whilst other parties reminisced about the iconic venue, the Labor party was quick to stand up and blame the State Liberal Government for the failing company, stating more should be done to support the company to keep its visitor Centre open.
“News that the Boag’s visitor experience is set to close is extremely disappointing for Launceston, and demonstrates the Liberals’ complete disregard for a Tasmanian icon,” said Member for Bass, Michelle O’Byrne.
“Boag’s Brewery is as Launceston as it gets.”
“Unfortunately, the Liberals seem to have taken Boags’ contribution to the economy and community for granted.”
A week later, Lion issued another statement, rescinding their previous comments around the closure of the visitor Centre, announcing that the brewery tours would continue to operate after receiving in-principle support of a $1 million financial support package from the Tasmanian Government to increase tours and enhance the visitor experience.
After visiting the Centre, Premier Rockliff said that the in-principle agreement for $1 million in funding reached between Lion and the State Government secures jobs and will expand and enhance the tourist attraction to be bigger and better than ever.
“The Boag’s Brewery Visitor Centre is not only a local cultural icon but a vital part of the local northern economy attracting thousands of visitors a year,” Premier Rockliff said.
“That’s why it’s so important that not only does the Visitor Centre remain open, but that we work with Lion to make the visitor Centre experience and attract more locals and tourists. The funding will also support a targeted marketing strategy to promote the tour experience nationally.”
“This investment reinforces the commitment of both Lion and our Government to ensuring this important part of Tasmanian history and community continues now and into the future.”
“I look forward to continuing to work in partnership with Lion and James Boags’ Brewery to make one of Launceston’s most loved tourist attractions better than ever.”
Nathan Calman, Boag’s Brewery Director said:
“This outcome is a win-win for the Launceston community, and for Boag’s.”
“We had no expectation that the Tasmanian Government would provide support to keep the tours operating. However, when they approached us, we were pleased to engage positively with them and are delighted the State Government has been able to find a way to support us through a funding package of $1 million.”
“This package will help us continue to provide a great tour experience at the Boag’s Visitor Centre, while we work with the Government and other stakeholders to address some of the long-term cost pressures our manufacturing business continues to face.”
As a thank you to locals, the brewery announced they would be offering anyone with a current Tasmanian Driver’s License free brewery tours for the next 12 months.
“We hope this provides a great incentive to bring friends and family to visit Launceston, to understand what we do, and enjoy all that our region has to offer.”
A recent study published by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Journal found that alcohol consumption is estimated to cost Australia over $67 Billion in health and other impacts.
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