Friday, July 19, 2024

Portuguese Bend, Long Beach’s first distillery, abruptly closes storefront amid legal battle between owners


Portuguese Bend Distillery, the city’s first formal distillery and one of the largest anchors to move into DTLB, has abruptly shuttered its entire storefront and restaurant, directing customers to its online shop for bottles and merchandise.

The move comes after Beachwood also closed its kitchen—but is keeping its space open as a tap room—and DTLB faces uphill battles, including Portuguese Bend’s neighbor, Lupe’s, which has remained closed and vacant for weeks.

Nothing but a note on the door from Portuguese Bend about the closure of its storefront. Photo by Joe. E. Bee.

The space’s most active owner and the company’s distiller, Simon Haxton, has not returned request for comment on the closure, which follows a steady decline of service hours across the past several months, from open seven days a week for full lunch and dinner service when the space first opened in 2019 to three days a week with limited hours come January of this year.

Even more, the distillery’s spirits themselves have proven unworthy: With zero local accounts, including The Bamboo Club outright refusing to renew its subscription to the distillery’s rum, and low sales—investors accuse Haxton of not middling but outright dismal sales of the spirits for distribution—the brand has become off-putting not because of its restaurant space but its spirits: People returning or complain that bottles have either turned to a urine-like yellow (as with their supposed-to-be-pink Dona Rosa gin) or have found floating particles in bottles of vodka, rum, and gin after they’ve been sitting.

Additionally, surrounding rumors about the distillery, landlords have confirmed that its two owners—Brenda Rivera of Lola’s and The Social List, and Haxton—are in a legal battle concerning Haxton’s handling of the distillery.

That lawsuit showcases an extremely toxic situation, with Rivera claiming Haxton is egotistical and paid himself $90K even when the company was struggling and Haxton calling Rivera a “basic bitch” who “doesn’t know anything about vodka,” according to the suit.

“With all the labor of love it took to create the first distillery in Long Beach, it saddened me to see its doors closing,” Rivera said. “No one could have ever predicted COVID-19, imagined the climate of downtown, and Haxton’s inability to pivot the business.”

Editor’s note: this article has been updated.

Portuguese Bend Distillery was located at 300 The Promenade N.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.


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