AMESBURY — The Ale House will be serving up its last lager after almost 15 years in the downtown Wednesday night.
Jeff Nahas is the owner of The Ale House, which he initially opened in The Morning Buzz’s current location on Friend Street in 2007 before heading just down the street to his current Main Street location two years later.
According to Nahas, the current staffing shortage being felt all over the country proved to be too much for The Ale House to keep going.
“We just couldn’t keep it open enough,” he said. “The volume was always there, it is just that staffing issues are so difficult right now.”
Nahas is also the owner of The Barking Dog Bar & Grill and the Blue Moon Kitchen and Bar in Amesbury, as well as The Barking Dog Ale House in Haverhill. He had to shut all of his restaurants during the initial COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in the spring of 2020.
Although he was able to open the restaurants again by late last summer, being able to find good help has proven to be more challenging.
“We can only open five nights a week,” he said. “The problem is, no matter how busy we are, it doesn’t make any sense to do that. We also can’t keep the other three restaurants open full time. Choosing which one to shut down was a very difficult decision but we felt that we had to maximize something”
Enter Carl McCowen, who recently moved to Amesbury from Colorado and was interested in opening a brewery along with his silent partner in the downtown. McCowen approached Nahas about potentially buying The Ale House over the summer.
“We’ve been looking for a place to brew our own beer for a while,” McCowen said. “We spoke to Jeff and it just came together for us.”
Nahas said he didn’t want to sell at first.
“But I gave it some thought and realize that I couldn’t even open my restaurant the way I wanted to,” Nahas said.
McCowen’s new brewery will be called Outrider Beer Company, and he expects to be open sometime next year.
“This will be a brew pub format which I haven’t seen nearly as much up here as I think you should,” McCowen said. “We want to bring a nice, comfortable family food environment with beer and it will be very community focused and family friendly.”
Although it is too soon to talk specifics about food, Outrider Beer Company expects to offer a light menu to start.
“The Ale House has that real community feel that frankly I’m a little bit jealous of,” McCowen said. “I want to keep as much of that as possible.”
Nahas was employing about 145 people before the pandemic hit. Currently he employs about 45.
“We’re going through a phase right now and we need to operate places that operate with less employees,” Nahas said. “Once you start thinking about that, The Ale House becomes the most difficult place to run. The place runs very well on a Friday night when you have 15 people on. I don’t have 15 people right now.”
According to Nahas, by moving on from The Ale House, he can transfer his staff to his other three restaurants which can now head toward full capacity.
“It was an awful decision to make,” he said. “If you told me I would have enough employees to run my restaurant in a year, I never would have sold. I just don’t believe it. If that’s the case, we need to focus on doing a great job in the places that we do have open.”
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.