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Each week, WFAE's "Morning Edition" hosts get a rundown of the biggest business and development stories from The Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.

Has the craft beer bubble burst?

A look inside Olde Mecklenburg brewery.
A look inside Olde Mecklenburg brewery.

After more than a decade of explosive growth, the craft beer industry is slowing in Charlotte and around the nation. That's according to an analysis of Brewers Association data by the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter. Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Sycamore Brewing and NoDa Brewing make up more than half of the beer made by Charlotte breweries, and the three combined produced less last year than they did in 2021. For more, we turn now to the Ledger's Tony Mecia for our segment BizWorthy.

Marshall Terry: OK, Tony, anecdotally speaking, it seems like people are still drinking as much beer as they were before. New breweries are still opening up. One just opened up near where I live. Are things not what they seem?

Tony Mecia: There are still breweries opening up. They're still people drinking craft beer. A lot of these taprooms and breweries are still crowded, people turning out. So that is definitely real. But if you look at the data, it shows that the rate of that growth is slowing and it kind of makes sense. You know, we've had this craft beer boom for the last decade or so, I guess, and it can't keep growing exponentially all the time. And so like a lot of mature industries, that's it's starting to flatten off a little bit. So you have some of the biggest brewers in town that after several years of double-digit growth, they're now more like single-digit growth. Or in the case of Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, it cut its production from 2022 compared with 2021. So it's starting to level off a little bit. It just means that that rate of growth is slowing. And so that's sort of something to keep an eye on. Eventually, we're going to tap out.

Terry: But this isn't just happening in Charlotte, right? I mean, this is happening everywhere.

Mecia: Right. This is a national phenomenon. If you look at craft beer production nationwide, it was up only 0.1% in 2022. So this is going on all over the place. The Brewers Association, which is a trade group representing breweries, says that it expects more closings of breweries in the next few years than we've seen previously, just as this market becomes more mature. I did talk with the head of the North Carolina Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association and he just said, you know, the gold rush is over. These times of, sort of, everybody getting in and, you know, tapping into this big growth of beer, that those times are going to be a little bit tougher.

And a lot of the problem, Marshall, really has to do on the distribution side. The neighborhood taprooms, I think those are going to continue to do all right. And, you know, Mecklenburg County and the surrounding area is growing. So they will definitely try and capture part of that growth. But on the distribution side, the grocery store shelves are not getting any bigger. It's harder for some of these bigger breweries to get space in those and to really expand their distribution footprint. So a lot of that has to do with the distribution at retail of the bigger breweries.

Terry: All right. Well, let's move to uptown now, where you report that at least 10 office towers are more than 50% empty. That's a staggering number. I'm guessing all the workers are at home. It sounds like Charlotte commercial real estate folks, though, are still keeping a sunny face about this. But is this trend actually becoming sort of dire at this point?

Mecia: I don't know if I would call it dire, but it is a little surprising that you have 10 office buildings uptown, pretty big ones that are more than half empty now. A lot of this is coming about because some of the major companies in uptown have consolidated their workers. You know, we know that Wells Fargo is doing that. Duke Energy, Bank of America is moving people around. And as a result of the pandemic, people are going into the office less than they used to. It's really more like three days a week. And so companies are just sort of reassessing how much space they need. Some of them are moving into SouthEnd. A lot of brokers say you're seeing people move into the newer buildings with amenities. And so it leaves some of these older buildings, ones that are decades old, built in the '70s, '80s, 90s — nobody's in those at the moment. So it's sort of a hard problem, you know, what do you do? How do you get in new tenants? And yes, they can refurbish them. There's some other ideas being explored. Can they be changed into apartment buildings? That's a little bit tough in a lot of cases.

Terry: All right. Well, over to NoDa now. A Chicago developer has purchased a historic building there. Which one, and what are the plans?

Mecia: Yeah, the Chadbourn Mill, which is in NoDa near Matheson, near the light rail line, was sold this month for $12.5 million. It had been refurbished by White Point Partners and it was bought by Northpond Partners, of Chicago, which is also buying some other historic properties and renovating them, including Latta Arcade and Packard Place. About 40,000 square feet of office space. And, obviously, it's in a pretty booming area close to NoDa, close to Optimist Park.

Terry: Finally, you report a movie is being filmed in Waxhaw and an old Burger King. Is this going to be an Oscar contender, Tony?

Mecia: Marshall, you never know what the critics are going to think of new movies. But I can tell you that a movie called "Operation Taco Gary's" is being filmed in the Charlotte area. The plot is that two brothers on a cross-country road trip become involved in a global conspiracy. FOX-46 reports that a Burger King in Waxhaw was transformed into Taco Gary's with a sign that says "Home of the Bingo Bongo Fiesta."

Terry: Well, I look forward to your review once the movie comes out. Thanks, Tony.

Support for WFAE's BizWorthy comes from UNC Charlotte's Belk College of Business, Sharon View Federal Credit Union and our listeners.

Marshall came to WFAE after graduating from Appalachian State University, where he worked at the campus radio station and earned a degree in communication. Outside of radio, he loves listening to music and going to see bands - preferably in small, dingy clubs.