Wednesday, August 17, 2022

What’s the deal with Tidewater, Wilmington’s first co-op brewery? Nobody’s willing to say

Construction has been completed since Hurricane Florence devastated Tidewater Brewing in Wilmington, but boards are still on the windows and the brewery appears empty (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
Construction has been completed since Hurricane Florence devastated Tidewater Brewing in Wilmington, but boards are still on the windows and the brewery appears empty (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

WILMINGTON — It’s been more than 10 months since Hurricane Florence all but destroyed the property at 1002 Princess Street in Wilmington — tearing the roof off of the decades-old building and ruining the progress of Tidewater Brewing which was scheduled to open the following week in the old warehouse.

But now, nearly one year after Florence and thousands of dollars raised in crowdfunding, there’s still no brewery — and nothing but silence from the brewery’s team.

The company’s website offers nothing but “404: page not found” errors. The last updates on social media came at the end of January. When Port City Daily reached out for comment to the brewery’s Board of Directors we were told that our former contact was no longer with the company and asked to email a ‘media’ address — two emails to that address have so far gone unanswered.

A unique idea

The brewery's parking lot sits empty except for some brewing equipment (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
The brewery’s parking lot sits empty except for some brewing equipment (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

Wilmington has no shortage of breweries, but Tidewater was going to be the first of its kind; it was going to be a co-op brewery — that meant regular, everyday residents could buy shares of the brewery and be ‘co-owners.’

Shares cost around $200 and according to an interview with one of the company’s founders in July of 2018, membership sales were doing well — it is not known how many shares the company sold.

Boards still cover the windows of the building and a new roof has been installed, but as for the status of the brewery, nobody will say.

Purchasers of shares for the brewery have reached out to Port City Daily saying they have not heard anything from the company in months, despite being ‘co-owners’ through the purchase of shares.

Legal troubles for the landowner

Destruction at the Tidewater Brewing Company was widespread after Hurricane Florence (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
Destruction at the Tidewater Brewing Company severe after Hurricane Florence. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

As it turns out, shareholders are not the only ones who are wondering where their money is.

Far before Hurricane Florence was even a breeze, a local electrical company was asking for payment for work completed at Tidewater Brewing. According to public documents, Osprey Lands, LLC is the property owner of 1002 Princess Street and according to court records, a nearly $27,000 lien was filed against the property for “failing to pay the full amount due under the contract.”

“On or about February 2, 2018, Plaintiff contracted with the Defendant for the purpose of providing all labor, materials, equipment, and incidentals required to make ready for use complete electrical systems … Defendant has breached the contract by failing to pay the full amount due under the contract,” court records show.

The claim for relief goes on to state Osprey Lands LLC owed $26,788 for labor and materials provided for the job.

According to documents in April of this year, the request for a lien was voluntarily dismissed.

Osprey Lands is, according to Secretary of State records, run by managing member James McFarland Jr. and Ruth Mazurek — neither of these parties are listed as members of Tidewater Brewing’s team — so it is possible Osprey Lands, LLC is only the property owner and has nothing to do with the brewery besides a landlord/tenant relationship.

However, since requests for information have gone unanswered, this has yet to be confirmed.

But the roughly $27,000 lien was just one that Osprey Lands, LLC is facing. The property across the street located at 921 Princess Street, the former Coca-cola building, also has a lien filed against it — for $190,000.

Once again court documents allege work was performed by a contractor but Osprey Lands, LLC has yet to pay for the work.

Questions remain

Tidewater Brewing set up a Go Fund Me and raised nearly $10,000 after Hurricane Florence (Port City Daily/File)
Tidewater Brewing set up a Go Fund Me and raised nearly $10,000 after Hurricane Florence (Port City Daily/File)

Three days after Hurricane Florence made landfall, a Go Fund Me page was created to ‘rebuild Tidewater Brewing Company‘ with a goal of $150,000. The campaign received several anonymous $1,000 donations and reached $9,310 before apparently stalling out, with the last donation around seven months ago.

According to New Hanover County building records, the last work permits for 1002 Princess St. – including roof repair – were applied for in October of 2018. The only other permit record is a stop-work order related to electrical work, issued in June of this year.

Unfortunately, nobody has been willing to say what the status of the brewery is. Obviously, work has been completed, a new roof has been installed, and doors are in place — but will Wilmington ever see its co-op brewery?

We don’t know.

Will those who purchased shares in the brewery be entitled to a refund if it does not open?

We don’t know.

Where did the money from the GoFundMe campaign get spent?

Again, we don’t know.


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