Local minority-owned brewery, lender talk closure

HENDERSONVILLE, NC (WSPA) – The boxes were ready on L.A. McCrae’s living room floor as she prepared to take her brewery out of Hendersonville.

“It is absolutely crushing,” said McCrae. “There’s just a numb deadness inside. This is your dream.”

It’s a dream that became a reality when she opened Black Star Line Brewing Company in Fall 2017.

“We acquired the business on October 12th, had our bar warming party on October 26th, grand opening on November 11th,” she recalled. “An invitation to the sweet beer movement.”

She said the black, queer owned business brewed inclusiveness and served as more than a place for beer.

“It had to be rooted in the historical legacy of black liberation,” said McCrae.

She said the same things those activists fought were brought to their front door with n-word laced emails and threats. A police report from November 16th shows harassing messages were left on the business’s website.

“That week was the escalation in hate crimes, the messages, the break-ins, the death treats here [her home] and at the bar,” she said. “They vandalized our brewing control system, which is the brain of brewing. So without that we couldn’t brew – you know what I mean. So of course, that impacts our production which impacts tap room sales so it was just a non-stop assault.”

She said soon after an MLK Day event the brewery was closed.

“72 hours later they locked us out and shut us down,” said McCrae. “When we talked to the landlord, the landlord said that our mission no longer fits with the vision of the space. She wants to terminate our lease.”

7News has reached out to the landlord for comment.

Mountain BizWorks Executive Director Patrick Fitzsimmons said he was not aware of such comments about the Black Star Line Brewing.

“We were notified by the landlord that they were going to terminate the lease on the facility,” said Fitzsimmons, who said they then moved to protect their collateral inside the building.

Mountain BizWorks is an Asheville-based lender that helped Black Star Line Brewing get started. Fitzsimmons said the landlord terminated the lease because the rent was not paid.

“We owed rent for December and were about to pay January so we were in conversation at that point the lender because the landlord involved the lender,” said McCrae. “The lender at that point was like look we’ll pay 6 months because they were extending additional working capital and the landlord was like yeah, no.“

She said she feels there were ulterior motives, because they were under-capitalized from the beginning and had difficulty communicating with involved parties.

“This was an intentional assassination on Black Star Line,” said McCrae. “This is a historical pattern that’s connected with the meta-narrative of black folks seeking liberation by self sufficiency, interdependence, self determination that has been historically and consistently interrupted by systems that privilege people with lighter skin.”

Fitzsimmons said they wanted the business to succeed.

“We were very excited about helping a black female owned business get started. That’s the kind of work we want to do, and we’re still invested in their success,” said Fitzsimmons. “We took a risky loan with them and we knew all those factors about them so to suggest that we wouldn’t want in anyway for them to succeed doesn’t make sense. It’s in our best interest and theirs for this to be a successful business.”

McCrae said she’s now packing up to move that that business to her hometown.

“What’s immediately next for Black Star Line is going to DC,” she said.