South Australians are reeling today from yesterday’s announcement by Lion that the iconic West End Brewery will close in June 2021.
Lion Managing Director, Mr James Brindley, made the announcement at a press conference, describing the closure as a sad day for West End, Lion and South Australia, but a necessary response to the realities of 2020. He was supported at the press conference by Lion’s Mr Ian Roberts, Supply Chain and Technical Director, and South Australia’s Sales Director, Mr Jason Baily.
The decision is attributed to the declining Australian beer market this past decade, with an even sharper decrease in consumption being recorded this past year. The huge production facility has been operating at less than 50% capacity. A proposition that was simply no longer viable.
Lion’s announcement went as follows: “West End has been operating well below its full production capacity for some time now and unfortunately this is no longer viable. We have come to this proposal as the best way to ensure we have a sustainable brewing network for the future.
“The Australian beer market has been in long-term decline for the past decade as Australian drinkers choose other beverages, like wine, over beer. Per capita beer consumption has dropped around 20% in this time.
“Our input costs have continued to rise against this backdrop of declining volume, and a further drop in draught beer sales as a result of the pandemic.”
Close to one hundred people will lose their jobs while a third of the workforce will remain in sales and sponsorship roles in South Australia.
The wellbeing of the West End team remains a priority for the business with Lion intending to provide extensive outplacement support, and a West End Re-Skilling Fund of up to $1 million, on top of any potential redundancy payments. The business will work with the South Australian Government to optimise this support package.
Of the closure, South Australia’s Premier Steven Marshall said: “We know that the coronavirus has affected the viability of so many businesses around the country, and we’re not immune from that here in South Australia – it’s a very sad day.
“What they will be doing though is looking after those employees, they’ll get their full entitlements and I know that they’re working with those employees as we speak to make sure that they’re looked after into the future.”
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Apparent Consumption of Pure Alcohol Per Capita, 2019.