‘Our Last Chapter’: Trinktisch, Craft Beer Cellars Closing New Year’s Eve As Owners Failed To Find Buyers

Photo: The location of Trinktisch and Craft Beer Cellars in Belmont Center

It was a sad day when the news was revealed in August that Suzanne Schalow and Kate Baker, the co-founders of Craft Beer Cellar and Trinktisch European Food Hall on Leonard Street in Belmont Center, were putting their local businesses up for sale.

And while it appeared the two landmark retail operations would-likely continue with new owners, the reality was announced in a social media post on Nov. 1 that both the store and restaurant will be closing for good on the last day of the year, Dec. 31.

The $1,080,000 price tag on the flagship store in the Craft Beer Cellar franchise universe with its thousands of loyal customers and the restaurant which has become a lively family destination known for its German entries and beer combinations, was too much for “a local individual, family, or group, to pick up where we will leave off,” said Schalow in August.

The headwinds preventing the sales were several: the long lasting negative impacts of the global pandemic the beer industry, retail, and restaurants, alike, on-going staffing challenges, and finally “irreconcilable differences with our landlord, which has ultimately dissolved any parties interest in purchasing our businesses, as we had hoped.”

“Time has run its course and now it’s time for us to live our last chapter,” said the couple on social media.

Thirteen years since opening a concept of selling craft beef from a narrow storefront on Leonard Street that developed into a nation wide franchise, Schalow and Baker discovered that more than a decade “without a real vacation or traveling,” running a franchise from a basement office, then adding a restaurant – a dream for the partners – took a significant toll.

“We are simply tired and ready to change gears, and feel certain that now is the time to make this change in our lives,” they said.

Schalow and Baker wanted their patrons, guests and fellow Belmont residents to know “it wasn’t you” that made their decision.

“[Y]ou’ve been wonderful and if not for YOU we would have never made it 13 lovely years!” they said. “We are so humbled to have been members of the Belmont, Belmont Business, and Belmont Center Communities for these years. We are ever grateful for your continued support, positivity, love, and friendship.”

“While not the outcome we had envisioned, we intend to enjoy our final two months of operation and will hope that we see you as often as possible, as we wrap up both businesses,” they said.

“Rest assured that we will keep working hard to provide the best in beer, wine, food, and hospitality, until the very end.”

As a coda, Schalow and Baker said they not leaving Belmont, nor will they be leaving the beer industry as they will continue to build the Craft Beer Cellar franchise brand while keeping busy visiting places, judging beers, write books, and make many more contributions to the beer universe.

“We have given our heart and soul to our businesses and now it’s time to take a step back, stay grateful for our experiences, and forge a new trail ahead,” they said.

Sehr Gut! Craft Beer Moving To Foodies Site And Opening New Eatery The ‘Trinktisch’

Photo: The current store at 51 Leonard

The owners of the successful Craft Beer Cellars at 51 Leonard St. in Belmont Center is moving their flagship store down the street and into the former Foodies Market site at the corner of Alexander Avenue where it will join a new restaurant/bar venture the partners had longed sought to open.

“The plan is to create a family friendly and welcoming environment, both inside and out, for all people,” said Suzanne Schalow, who with partner Kate Baker opened the business in November 2010.

And the move of the current shop and the new restaurant were made “official” as the Select Board granted last week a full liquor license for the restaurant and a second license for the beer store’s new location.

And the eatery will be called Trinktisch, German for “drink table.” [Trinktisch is also a popular game in Germany among teens and young adults similar to Shoots and Ladders/Chutes and Ladders.] And while food will be featured at the site, Schalow said they will not be competing directly with the other eateries on the street.

“Certainly ‘beer’ is currently our middle name so we plan to largely support that as we go forth into the world,” she said.

While a request for a new liquor license or its transfer can be contentious, the board’s sentiment to the requests was framed by Chair Roy Epstein who found only one misstep in the application: a missing umlaut over a letter in the menu.

The lack of any conflict between town and business was due in no great part that the owners have been the definition of good business stewards for the past decade, according to Board Member Adam Dash.

“I think an expansion of an existing successful business is a good thing to see,” said Dash. “It’s a great addition to the Center.”

And the public’s viewpoint was just as supportive as Alexander Avenue resident and School Committee Chair Andrea Prestwich proclaimed, “Go beer ladies. We love you.”

The restaurant will have approximately 2,400 square feet of bar space with just under 10,000 square feet of common seating, a kitchen, four restrooms, office and meeting spaces and an events space. The bar/eatery will be adjacent to the new location of the Beer Cellar which take 3,800 square feet, It will have a 200-square foot walk-in refrigerator

The Trinktisch will service beer, wine and cider along with non-alcoholic beverages. Schalow said it will also have a limited menu that will source local suppliers.

The restaurant/bar will be located on the lower level of the building and will be accessed by three entries – one on Leonard Street and two off the Locatelli parking lot adjacent to Claflin Street.

“Kate and I never forget, for one second that having a liquor license … is not our right, it’s a privilege. And we think about that every single day when we get up and go to work and we make sure that we’re upholding the virtues and the values that are required by business owners that have a liquor license,” said Schalow.

“I don’t think that’s the same everywhere but we’re not trying to compare ourselves to other people. We’re just trying to do what we feel is right and take care of a community that we do really care about.”

Belmont Selectmen Ponder Cellar’s Request for Earlier Sunday Opening

When is it too early to sell beer on a Sunday in the “Town of Homes”?

That’s the question before the Belmont Board of Selectmen after hearing a request from the owners of the Craft Beer Cellar to allow the wildly-successful Belmont Center store to swing open its doors at 10 a.m. on Sundays at its meeting Monday, Oct. 20 at the Beech Street Center .

Suzanne Schalow, Cellar’s co-owner (with Kate Baker), said the business, located at 51 Leonard St., is seeking a “Change in Hours” to its business license, from its current noon opening. The CBC operates from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Schalow said the change would be in keeping with modifications to the so-called state “Blue Laws” approved by the legislature and signed by Gov. Deval Patrick in July allowing retail businesses catering to alcohol and beer sales to seek an earlier opening. Nearby towns, such as Burlington, have approved such changes, according to news reports.

In addition, the new opening time will make the 10 a.m. opening consistent with the other six days.

“Customers are rattling the door” at 10 a.m., wondering why the business isn’t open, said Schalow. She said many customers this time of year are seeking to purchase beer for pro football viewing parties.

Since opening four years ago next month, CBC’s support of the rapidly growing US microbrewery industry with passionate and knowledgeable employees and managers has been a hit with customers, resulting in the Belmont-based business becoming a national retail trendsetter with 12 CBC stores in Massachusetts, Missouri, Florida, Maine and Vermont with another nine – including proposed locations in the Bay State, Colorado, Mississippi and California – in the planning stages.

For at least one Selectmen, the idea of an early opening is a bit off-putting. While praising the store as a great example of a small business doing good for the town, Selectman Mark Paolillo was hesitant to approve the application out-of-hand.

“I’m not so sure that is the right time for us,” said Paolillo.

While the full board delayed making a decision on the application, it wasn’t due to one town officials personal preference but rather if the board has any jurisdiction on the matter.

“I don’t know if we have the right to turn this application down,” said Selectmen Chair Andy Rojas as the new law could have legal sway over local authorities. Rather than a simple up-or-down vote, the board referred the matter to Belmont Town Counsel George Hall for review.

Football and other sports fans will have to wait until noon before stocking up for at least a few more weeks before a decision is known.

About Time: Belmont’s Craft Beer Cellar Named ‘Best of Boston’

Each August, Boston magazine publishes its annual list of what’s “best” around Boston; the “best” new restaurant, sticky bun, bikini wax (?!) and what not.

There is a lot to quibble about the concept and how and who the magazine selects as the “best” – the magazine’s universe appears to be limited to a few miles emanating from its “axis mundi” at the border of Boston’s South End and Back Bay neighborhoods – the 2014 edition will be known for one selection Belmont residents have known since 2011: the Craft Beer Cellar is the “best” beer store in Boston.

“Much to the delight of local hopheads, this shop – opened in Belmont four years ago by Cambridge Common alums Suzanne Schalow and Kate Baker – is now spreading its sudsy gospel to new locations in Newton, Winchester, Braintree(,) and Westford,” says the magazine of the business that opened its doors on a cool November day at 51 Leonard St.

“In addition to offering tastings and classes, staffers take their inventory of ales and lagers quite seriously, regularly updating the varieties available at each store online (the newly open Newton Centre outpost alone carries more than 1,000 beers) and cataloging them by brewery, provenance(,) and style.”

And what Boston magazine acknowledges for eastern Massachusetts will soon be known around the US: the Cellar is opening stores in two new states – Maine (Portland) and New York (Warwick in Westchester county) – and is looking to Long Island and Los Angeles for possible locations.

Maybe we will see this headline in a few years: Best Beer Store in the US.