Kathleen McLaughlin
The Bulletin

Even a $500,000 incentive can’t seem to lock down a brewpub deal in Madras.

After nearly a year of soliciting proposals for a brewpub to locate downtown, the city has yet to find a capable business. Madras Redevelopment Commission Chairman Tom Brown said the commission is still entertaining an interested party.

“We are waiting for a group to get back to us that has shown some interest,” Brown said. “I don’t consider the project dead.”

In December the commission approved a request for proposals for a brewpub, which could qualify for as much as $500,000 in assistance and favorable terms on two parcels of city property in the urban renewal district, which is downtown along U.S. Highway 97.

Initially, inquiries came from as far away as Australia. The commission extended the deadline on responses in March. Brown said ultimately no one was selected from that pool.

“You find a lot of guys that have a good beer recipe,” Brown said. While the redevelopment commission offers financial assistance, a new brewpub operator has to have some financial interest, he said. “When you’re dealing with the public’s money, you want to make sure you’re spending it properly.”

Other proposers came forward over the summer, Brown said. One group of entrepreneurs from the Southeast showed promise but decided against relocating their families, he said.

While Madras has several drinking establishments and taprooms, it’s one of the only Central Oregon cities without its own craft brewery. La Pine also lacks a brewery. Feedback from hundreds of residents on the city’s urban renewal action plan listed a brewery as top priority.

Assisted by a beer-industry consultant, city officials decided a brewpub would be a more realistic venture than a production brewery for a town the size of Madras, population 6,729.

Brown said he didn’t expect to take this long to find someone with a viable business plan.

“Part of it is, they need to run a restaurant,” Brown said. “There’s been a lot of different ideas about the brewery side of it.”

Jennifer DuPont, co-owner of Wild Winds Station, a restaurant with more than two dozen beer taps, said “all the incentives in the world” can’t make a restaurant profitable. Wild Winds Station has been in business about four years on NE Cedar Street, off U.S. Highway 97 north of downtown, she said.

“You’ve got to have the population, and you’ve got to have the walk-in traffic to make it work,” DuPont said.

The Madras area hosted an unprecedented number of tourists in August 2017 for the total solar eclipse, and the town is still busy with overnight hotel stays, Brown said. On Oct. 10, the redevelopment commission will consider awarding a $465,000 commercial development grant to the owner of the Inn at Cross Keys Station for a 64-room My Place Hotel across a parking lot from the existing hotel.

— Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com