Unionized workers at Anchor Brewing Company, the oldest craft brewer in the United States, want to buy the 127-year-old company and run it as a co-op to save it from shutting down, a union official said.
The company said last week that economic pressures, including the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, had left it “with no option but to make this sad decision to cease operations.” But employees, who were given 60 days’ notice and promised severance packages, have proposed a way to keep the beer flowing.
The workers have “decided to launch an effort to purchase the brewery and run it as a worker co-op,” according to a proposal letter from the Anchor employees. Pedro de Sá, the business agent at International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 6, whose members include workers at Anchor, sent the proposal on Wednesday to Mike Minami, the president of Sapporo USA, which owns the company.
“All we want is a fair shot at being able to continue to do our jobs, make the beer we love, and keep this historic institution open,” the letter said. “We do not want the brewery and brand we love to be sold off before we even had a chance.”
On Wednesday, the unionized Anchor workers posted a link to the VinePair article on Twitter: “Time to put everyone’s love of this brand to the test. Let’s work this out together and bring back what we’ve almost lost.”
Sam Singer, a spokesman for Anchor, did not comment on the proposal on Thursday but said that about two dozen investors and individuals had expressed interest in acquiring the assets of Anchor Brewing Co.
“It is heartening to see so many stepping forward to possibly carry on the tradition of an iconic San Francisco company and beer,” Mr. Singer said. “We remain hopeful that Anchor will be purchased and continue on into the future, but it will be in the hands of the liquidator to make that decision and is dependent on what is offered by potential purchasers.”
The Japanese beer giant Sapporo acquired the company, which was founded in 1896, in 2017 for around $85 million. In 2019, Anchor workers voted to unionize, describing inadequate pay and unfair working conditions.
Mr. de Sá said in an interview on Thursday that he had met with the 39 workers who are members of the union and who represent about two-thirds of the brewery’s work force. In a meeting at the plant on Wednesday, the employees had agreed to form a committee to look at bylaws and to pursue further steps to compete for ownership.
“There was agreement to form the co-op and try to pursue buying it from Sapporo, and we notified the company that same day,” Mr. de Sá said. “We are hoping that the company will give the workers a fair shot.”
But the Aug. 2 start of the liquidation process for the company was looming.
“The timeline is very short,” Mr. de Sá said. “As far as we know, the company is going to be sold for parts, and we want enough time to get in a serious bid.”
When the shutdown was announced on July 12, I.L.W.U. Local 6 described it as a “tragic consequence” of a large corporation taking over a local institution from a base across the Pacific Ocean and “failing to understand how to market, sell, and distribute a great product that has been loved for generations.”
Anchor has stopped brewing but has said that it will continue to sell beer until it runs out or through the end of July, whichever comes first. Anchor Public Taps would sell remaining inventory.
After the news of the impending closure spread, fans lined up outside of the tap room to purchase T-shirts and cases of beer and to help drain remaining inventory, The Associated Press reported. In the Bay Area, NBC News reported this week that other investors had expressed interest in saving the brewery.
To Sapporo, Anchor Steam was “just another line item in the budget,” the union said at the time, but the workers and the city of San Francisco “suffer the consequences.”