16 Lots Southern Outpost Might Be Closing, But The Sky Is Not Falling
Written By: The Gnarly Gnome
Photos By: The Gnarly Gnome
In an ever-growing and ever-evolving craft beer market, we will have days like today. It’s never fun, and it certainly isn’t ever easy when you are as deeply in love with the people and the places that make up this whole thing that we call ‘Cincinnati Craft Beer.’
16 Lots is closing their Southern Outpost in Newport, Kentucky… maybe?
The Beginnings Of 16 Lots
Before we get too deep into where 16 Lots is today and how they got there, we have to get all the way back to the beginning when they opened their doors in Mason.
The brewery opened the doors to its original location on September 15th, 2017. They were the first brewery to open up in the city of Mason, and they spent the first couple years of their life figuring out who they were. It was clear that folks in Mason wanted their own brewery – but as new places opened around them, it seemed as if 16 Lots often got lost in the shuffle, not as big as some other places, not as “fancy” as others, and without a personality that was able to jump ahead of even other spots.
Their branding was tied heavily into the area’s history and some of the stories about the very beginnings of the city of Mason. It didn’t stand out like it might have if they had opened up a few years earlier, and it needed a big shakeup to evolve the way it had to.
In 2020, the brewery gets new life as Del Hall joined Mike Burton as a part owner, and they started revitalizing the pieces of the business that were lagging behind. They underwent a brand “refresh,” filling the brewery with a new personality and showing folks that there was more to 16 Lots than a historical callback to Mason’s beginning.
The Struggles and Growth
It’s probably the first thing people think is to blame when a place closes now—the pandemic. The struggles to get through 2020, 2021, and beyond have been real – and certainly play their own parts in how business has changed (or ceased) for many places. For other businesses, though, it was just a catalyst for new ways of doing business.
16 Lots came “out” of that time, running full speed ahead. They were hurting but full of vigor and planning to push hard into their next era. They started plans on a second taproom at Newport on the Levee that would ignite their bottom line and new and old customers’ feelings about their brand.
The buildup to this new taproom was incredible – they were growing not only with new space – but also adding to their team some incredible folks who could take things to a new level. The new brewpub opened its doors on May 19, 2023, and showed people that 16 Lots meant business.
The Southern Outpost
The new taproom is a bold undertaking. The team was a bold undertaking, with many extremely talented people helping to steer the ship. I don’t know what the space they are in costs to operate – but I can imagine it’s steep considering the location of the taproom.
People that I’ve talked to who have spent time in the taproom, drinking the new beers, and eating the new food from an incredible new team have been happy. Things have looked like they are headed in a great direction for the 16 Lots brand and their new venture.
So… what gives?
Here’s where it’s hard. I obviously have no inside knowledge of someone else’s business, so the only thing that I can do is speculate. Newport on the Levee is a hard location. The foot traffic that I always tend to expect to be there isn’t – and when you jump out of the gate swinging as hard as these guys did, that’s a big punch to the gut.
This brewpub was supposed to elevate the experience for drinkers. It was supposed to be bolder than other places around it – and it was – but the crowds haven’t shown up in the way that the brewery needed them to.
If I have to put things into the simplest explanation of why I think The Southern Outpost failed (or is failing, or is struggling, we’ll get to that confusion in a moment), it’s that it’s simply too big, too expensive, and hasn’t been able to find the crowd in Newport to make that work. That isn’t to say that it can’t – but it’s an uphill battle they will have to fight to make it come together.
What Isn’t Causing Them To Shut Down
I know why 16 Lots isn’t closing. I actually know a lot more reasons why I think they aren’t closing than I can point at why they might be.
It certainly isn’t the beer. One of the big pushes over the last two years from the brewery has been making the beer that was already ‘fine,’ great. They brought in some incredibly talented people, with Chris Mitchell and Josh Wilson, to do that – and it’s been absolutely wonderful. It isn’t the food, either. The brewpub just recently brought in a new chef who revamped the menu, and after trying a bunch of the new menu items, I can honestly tell you it was delicious.
It also isn’t the people. Every time the brewery was forced (or has chosen) to replace a team member over the last 6+ years, they’ve found someone who fits their team better, brings a unique perspective to the business, and makes things better.
This Isn’t The End Times
Just recently, the esteemed Rick Armon wrote for the Canton Repository about the number of craft breweries in Ohio hitting an all-time high last year (and yes, I realize the Southern Outpost is in Kentucky). The world of craft beer simply isn’t crashing to a halt.
I’m a firm believer that we’re seeing the complete opposite. The beer we’re drinking is better than it’s ever been. The breweries that we’re surrounded by are better businesses than ever before. The industry is not tearing itself apart.
We, as craft beer fans, have to prepare ourselves for the inevitable realization that some of the places that we love are going to shut their doors – but the hope is that when they do, their void is filled by someone else with a different plan, in a different spot, who can keep craft beer alive.
A Note And What You Can Do
16 Lots shared the news of their closing with a note that they’re working on some “stuff.” Maybe the taproom in Newport is closing, but they have some other “irons in the fire.” Frankly… I’m not sure what that means. What I do know is they’re asking everyone to come in this week, hang out – drink some beer, and do whatever we can to help keep this dream alive.
I don’t know that showing up will save this taproom – but I understand it’s exactly what I will do – because I love them. I love the beer, I love the space, and I love the people.
When I talked about the people at 16 Lots, I meant it from the bottom of my heart. There are great people that work here – and while, as of writing this, I don’t know a lot of details – I’m asking every local brewery that has open roles to reach out to the team at 16 Lots if they can help some of these folks find a new role quickly.
The First Update (1/22/24)
I stopped into The Southern Outpost this evening for a live episode of The Weekly Pint. I don’t usually do these on location, but I figured it was an excellent opportunity to stop by and give them a little support. While I wasn’t expecting Del Hall and Chris Mitchell to sit down and talk about what was happening, I was more than happy when they offered a quick chat.
We certainly got a better picture of what is going on with the brewery – it’s struggling, but they’re hoping to keep things rolling long enough for the business that the Spring usually brings to pick up. They’re asking their friends, fans, and anyone wanting to see the location succeed to show up and support them.
The brewery put out an update today on their social media channels that sheds a little more light on where they’re at currently with things. They were pretty honest and open about the state of the business and what is needed to keep the doors open.
The 2-minute video, which I transcribed below for you, lets us know that they’ve worked out deals with both their landlord and their bank – but need a little more money on hand if they’re going to make the Southern Outpost work. They let folks know that they are open to taking on new outside investments and still need support from their fans more than ever.
MIKE: Hey guys, this is Mike and Del from 16 Lots Southern Outpost, and we wanted to take the opportunity to provide a brief update to all of you guys out there. First off I just wanted to thank all of you who have taken the chance to come out and see us and support. Secondly, you know, the reality was the business has struggled from the beginning – you know – we’re just trying to be authentic to ourselves and to our brand and communicate clearly and transparently with you all.
DEL: So, a lot of you out there think that this is pretty exhausting, following our socials and figuring out what our hours are going to be, and if we’re going to make it – we’ll it’s exhausting for us, too – but this is the position that we don’t want to be in, but that actually is our reality. We’re struggling every week to get to the next week, and we’re going to keep doing that as long as we can because there’s no giving up in us, we’re not quitters.
MIKE: What are we doing, now? We’re going to continue to stay open as a taproom only, and that will be limited hours from Tuesdays through Saturdays. We’ve completely revamped our operating model, we’ve been working with North American Properties who’s the landlord here, and our bank, Eclipse bank, they’ve both been tremendous partners in putting a plan together with us to allow this business a chance to breathe. In the meantime what we’re doing is raising money. We’ve got about a four week window that we need to raise a chunk of money to give us that backbone that we need to feel confident pushing forward. If you’ve ever had interest in being in the brewing business we’re now soliciting external investors as well – feel free to reach out.
DEL: This is not a product of dry January, this is a bigger systemic problem. This is ongoing support. We’re looking to get to that trifecta in March of March Madness, St Patricks Day, and Red’s Opening Day – so every week in February, get out here and support us.
MIKE: You know, the reason that we’re doing this is that we believe in what we’re doing here. We believe in the Levee, we believe in 16 Lots South, we believe that people will come when they get a chance to experience what we have to offer. We think we’re going to have a thriving business for the long term, and we appreciate the continued support.Video Update From 16 Lots