While Aaron Hanson loaded beer kegs into a trailer Tuesday afternoon, he pointed out a sparsely occupied parking lot north of Ellison Brewing Co. in downtown Indianapolis.
Hanson said the lot was filled with cars on a regular basis when he opened Ellison’s first location outside its home state of Michigan in November 2019 at 501 Madison Ave.
But fewer in-office shifts for employees at the nearby Rolls-Royce Meridian Center and Eli Lilly and Co. corporate campus made the pandemic an insurmountable challenge for Ellison. After permanently closing the brewery and restaurant on July 19, Hanson is taking equipment back to Lansing, Michigan.
“We limped along as long as we could,” Hanson said. “It’s not the same town it was in 2018 and 2019. We see good event traffic, but the day-to-day lunch crowd is low.”
Between difficulties in hiring staff and a lack of potential customers seeking food and drinks, it’s tough to turn a profit, Hanson said.
“It’s not just Indianapolis,” he said. “Every big city is dealing with it.”
Ellison moved into a 7,500-square-foot space previously occupied by Tow Yard Brewing, a business that operated from 2014 to 2018. Loft apartments are rented on the upper two floors of the 122-year-old building managed by Judd Investments Two LLC.
Before relocating to Plainfield, Chateau Thomas Winery occupied the building’s first floor in the early 1990s.
Hanson, a former automotive engineer who co-founded Ellison in 2015, said he’s now focused on the financial health of two locations in the Lansing area. To check in on Indianapolis operations, Hanson said he spent eight hours a week on the road.
“When you put the time allocation into perspective, it’s shocking,” he said. “I would lose four workdays a month to driving. I love Indianapolis. I just wish our time here wasn’t 98% during COVID.”