Mr. Brews Taphouse, a combination craft beer bar and restaurant, closed its showcase Downtown location Tuesday after more than three years, its owner calling the West Johnson Street store a bad fit for the company.
"We built a Taj Mahal store in Downtown Madison and spent three times what we normally spend on a Mr. Brews," said Steve Day, who owns the company with his brother, Gregg.
Day said Mr. Brews, with 13 locations, continues to grow and he expects to have 30 stores by next year based on the number of contracts he has signed.
The brothers closed the location at 305 W. Johnson St., just off State Street, quietly and gave their employees a one-week severance package, "which I think is pretty fair for a bar-restaurant concept," Day said.
The company, which began as Brews Brothers in the village of Weston in 2013, works well in metropolitan areas around business parks, he said.
They opened the Johnson Street location next to Tory Miller's Spanish tapas restaurant Estrellón in Hovde Properties' Ovation 309 building in June of 2014, going against their model, "and that was on me," Day said.
"We've been trying to fight this for a couple of years, and we work better in small footprints and in suburban towns and it just didn't work out," he said, lauding his landlords as "wonderful people."
Buying out the remainder of their lease will be costly, but Day said Mr. Brews worked out a fair exit deal with Hovde Properties, which is looking for a new restaurant or retail tenant.
"We fought it as long as we could. There's a lot of competition Downtown, as you know, with all the college bars that have been there for years. And it just wasn't a good fit for our company."
The Day brothers also own locations in Waunakee and Menomonee Falls. Franchisees run locations in Middleton, Monona, Verona, Fort Atkinson, Appleton, Plover, and outside Green Bay. A new store just opened in Lexington, Kentucky, and others are in the works in Tennessee and Colorado.
"We're very successful," Day said. "We obviously have a huge footprint in the Madison market."
The bar-and-grill concept features as many as 60 craft beers from around the world on tap and a simple food menu of burgers, fries and appetizers.
His franchisees work hard and do well, Day said. The reason the Johnson Street store struggled is because it tripled its typical square footage and that was an expensive proposition Downtown.
Day said he and his brother fed almost a half million dollars into the Johnson Street location in the last two years to keep it going.
"I'm sad," Day said about the closing. "Did I think this would ever happen? No. But a good businessman has to cut his losses sooner or later."