Peconic County Brewing beset by financial woes, closes abruptly

Peconic County Brewing closed its doors in downtown Riverhead for the last time Friday evening, after two and a half years in business.

The brewery, known for its spacious dining and drinking area, trivia nights and nautical motif, closed not because of a lack of community support — even in Riverhead’s crowded craft beer market — but due to internal management and financial challenges, according to co-owner and chief financial officer Dante Osei.

“The community in Riverhead, the residents, are phenomenal,” he said. “They’ve been behind us.”

Mr. Osei said the brewery, located on the ground floor of Main Street’s Riverview Lofts, had to close due to a notice that its water would be shut off as of Aug. 26. The establishment’s social media accounts notified followers of its pending closure earlier last week. By mid-afternoon Friday, several of its brews were already sold out.

Mr. Osei said he parted ways with his partner and PCB’s founder and president, Jeff Schaeffer, due to “mismanagement on his part” back in January. Among the biggest problems, Mr. Osei said, were the low food and beverage prices.

“While the failure of the brewery falls on Jeff, I’m also to blame,” he said. “I can’t absolve myself from it … I thought he had some kind of financial sense. He didn’t.”

“PCB opened in the middle of a pandemic, which changed the rules for all restaurants up and down Long Island,” said Mr. Schaeffer, who launched Mugs On Main, a coffee shop down the street from the brewery, back in April. 

Customers visited Peconic County Brewing for the final time after its surprise closing announcement. (Credit: Nicholas Grasso)

“Food costs changed, the cost of grain changed, availability of everything changed … We opened with, you know, six feet apart from people and 50% capacity. So all the ideas of what things used to cost, it wasn’t the case by the time we opened,” he said. “We tried to not pass those costs to the customers to build more brand loyalty.”

The brewery is currently in the midst of three separate legal disputes with lenders Fox Capital Group and Everest Business Funding, as well as food distribution company Sysco Foods.

A representative from managing company Georgica Property Management said the brewery had not paid rent in a year. The property manager then secured a warrant to evict PCB.

“While we do not discuss the details of litigation, Peconic County Brewing has not complied with the financial obligations of their lease, which resulted in a judgment being issued from the Riverhead Town Justice Court,” an emailed statement from the company said. “We have made multiple good faith attempts to resolve the matter without success and have been forced to take appropriate next steps. We wish the staff of PCB the best of luck in their future endeavors, and look forward to continuing to support the Riverhead community.”

Looking ahead, Mr. Osei said he plans to open another brewery, possibly under the same name and with members of the same crew, elsewhere on the East End. Since taking a more hands-on role in the business this past year, he said he became much closer with the staff. He added that the responsibility of paying employees’ paychecks sometimes fell on him personally. Describing himself as, “not an industry veteran,” Mr. Osei said it was worth it because he leaned on his staff heavily this past year to keep the brewery afloat.

“They are Swiss army knives — they can do whatever is thrown at them,” he said. “And I threw a lot of [stuff] at them.”

While he is no longer involved in the business, Mr. Schaeffer described its closure as “heartbreaking.”

“I love Peconic County Brewing,” he said. “PCB was my dream for years. I put everything I had into it; I gave up my career, my life savings and all my time … I believe it was a great piece of downtown Riverhead.”