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The restaurant, known for its music scene, has not been able to recover from a bad summer.
The Roanoke Times | File 2012
Growler’s at Towers Shopping Center will close after this weekend, silencing an active music spot.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
A 13-year era of Roanoke restaurant, music and brewpub history is coming to an end. Growler’s American Grill and Venue, at Towers Shopping Center, is closing for good on Monday.
Growler’s owner Barry Caldwell said that after a poor performance in the summer of 2012 — which included closing the restaurant for five days after the June 29 derecho — the business fell behind on rent. Business picked up last winter, but not enough to cover the losses of the previous year, he said. Some successful concerts from touring acts in the business’s music room did not take up the slack.
“You have some good shows and have some good weeks, but we couldn’t link up three or four good weeks in a row to get back on page,” he said. “I don’t think we could stand another summer like last summer.”
Growler’s employed about 28 people — kitchen staff, wait staff, bartenders and bouncers — Caldwell said. It also was home to Big Daddy’s Brewing Co., a separate business that sold a variety of beers not only at Growler’s, but also at about 10 restaurants in the Roanoke Valley and at Salem Memorial Baseball Stadium.
Workers were moving out the brewery on Friday, taking the gear to storage until a new space can be found, brewmaster Sean Osborne said. He and his partners said they plan to reopen the brewery elsewhere, with a tasting room, at some point in the fall.
Osborne said that he filled every keg he had and sold them to Layman Distributing in Salem.
“But I didn’t have that many kegs,” he said. “I imagine it won’t be too long before it’s all run out, unfortunately.”
The restaurant began as part of the Awful Arthur’s Seafood Co. chain, and Caldwell was its manager from the time it opened at Towers in 2000. He bought the business from Todd Lancaster in January 2010, and a year later changed the name and menu.
In both of its iterations, the restaurant was just as well known for its national, regional and local music lineup as for its food and beer.
The room, which had a capacity of about 400, hosted nationally touring shows that included rap acts Slick Rick, Nappy Roots and Murs; jazz-funk bands Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Soulive and Jeff Coffin and the Mu’Tet; Americana acts Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, James McMurtry and The Band of Heathens, jambands Tea Leaf Green and Donna the Buffalo; funk-rockers Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk and Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds; and roots rockers Reverend Horton Heat and Unknown Hinson.
Growler’s in recent years also provided one of the valley’s most consistent venues for the local hip-hop scene, and hosted other locals acts such as The Floorboards, Tobacco Apache and Electric Chameleon.
Smoking in the establishment had become a sticking point with some patrons, and last year, Caldwell went to an across-the-board no smoking policy. After that, customers who dined in the front portion of the restaurant to avoid the barroom smoke began eating in the barroom.
“We just had too much space … that wasn’t generating revenue,” Caldwell said.
Growler’s was scheduled to host its final concert on Saturday, with nationally touring Dangermuffin headlining and Tobacco Apache opening.
“I’m kind of overwhelmed at this point with everything that’s going on,” Caldwell said. “I never thought that we’d be closing, but you close one chapter of your life and you open a new one.
“I hope to stay viable in the music scene in some way shape or form. But we’ll see. I’ve gotta find a job and help my people find jobs.”
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