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Standing Stone Brewing Co. to close

Citing tourism declines, staffing challenges and rising costs, Standing Stone Brewing Company in Ashland will close its doors at the end of the month. Photo courtesy Elisha Lewis

After two and a half decades downtown, an Ashland dining mainstay is preparing to say farewell.

Standing Stone Brewing Company is planning to close its doors for good May 29 with a $3 pint event hearkening back to the restaurant and brewery’s original 1997 menu prices, according to Elisha Lewis, one of the restaurant’s managers.

They hope all who have enjoyed the brew pub since 1997 can stop in before the last pint is poured.

The restaurant’s final day is contingent on staffing, according to Lewis, who said she had to let go about 30 people Tuesday. For the next month, she and other leadership at the restaurant will help their staff with “100% assistance” that includes help building resumes and providing references.

“We want to make sure that they’re taken care of,” Lewis said, describing either helping their employees find a new job or paying unemployment “just as we did during the pandemic.”

Standing Stone Brewing Company was founded in 1996 by brothers Mark, Emile and Alex Amarotico, who transformed the historic Whittle Garage Building at 101 Oak St. in downtown Ashland into a full-service restaurant and brewery.

Common Block Brewing in Medford is an offshoot owned by some members of the Amarotico family and family friends. When asked whether any staff members would be moving over to the Medford restaurant, Lewis described the Medford and Ashland restaurants as completely separate business entities.

For Lewis, who has worked at Standing Stone since 2014, having to part with the company is a loss because of how the company took care of her and her employees. Whether it was generous health benefits, a bike program, the company’s commitment to sustainability or the thousands of dollars it raised for nonprofits through its Pints for a Purpose program, Standing Stone was a workplace Lewis believed in.

“We were all on board and we made it happen,” Lewis said. “It’s literally a company based on community, and we just couldn’t make it — we couldn’t thrive.”

“It’s heartbreaking to see this.”

Among the fundraising highlights, in 2016 the company raised $35,000 for the nonprofit Rogue Valley Farm to School during its Oak Street Harvest Dinner. Most recently, Standing Stone raised about $6,000 for the nonprofit World Central Kitchen to help provide meals for refugees in Ukraine.

Lewis said she’ll always remember the “lines out the door” in her early years, filled with Shakespeare tourists and locals alike.

The company, however, has faced significant headwinds since at least 2018, when intense smoky summers started prompting tourists to rethink their visits to Southern Oregon and cancel reservations.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the Almeda fire also cast ripple effects across the restaurant industry in Southern Oregon. Even with competitive wages and benefits, shifts and open positions were a challenge to fill.

When they announced the news of the closure to staff, Lewis said, no one was surprised. Some already knew where they’d land next.

“For me personally as a restaurant manager, I didn’t have a backup plan,” Lewis said.

What happens to the business next month is unknown. The entire business could be sold if a buyer comes along, or the building — with its patio views and seating for about 120 — could become home to another restaurant.

“No decisions have been made other than closing the brewpub,” Lewis said.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.