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Duane Reade Taps Into Beer Business With Growler Bars, Plans To Expand Concept

July 8, 2011

Duane Reade, the New York City-based drugstore chain owned by Walgreens, says its two locations featuring take-out beer bars have been a big success and that it plans to expand the concept this fall.

The company’s first “Brew York City Growler Bar” debuted in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood at the end of last year. This March, Duane Reade launched a second growler bar at its store on 72nd Street and Broadway. Both bars serve local, import, and craft beers on tap, with the selection changing every few months. A recent list included Brooklyn Lager, Brooklyn Summer Ale, Ommegang Abbey Ale, Blue Point Hoptical Illusion, Blue Point Pale Ale, Peak Organic IPA, Sixpoint Righteous Rye, Sixpoint Sweet Action and Goose Island Honkers Ale. The beers can be purchased in 64-ounce take-away growlers for $7.99 each. Duane Reade offers its own screw-top glass growlers at $3.99, but customers can bring their own to be filled by a Duane Reade employee. The company has also launched a Brew York City Twitter account, where customers can get the latest on menu updates and free in-store samples, as well as news about special deals and discounts.

The growler bar concept was born after Duane Reade faced local opposition to the opening of its Williamsburg location last year. “They didn’t want a chain store in their neighborhood,” said senior vice president for merchandising and marketing Paul Tiberio. “The store received approval, but we wanted the community to be happy about it, so we went to them for ideas.” After interviewing locals and brainstorming on ways to boost the poplarity of the new Duane Reade location, the company came up with the growler bar concept. It’s been a big success in the trendy Williamsburg neighborhood. “We really hit a home run,” Tiberio said. Sales at the Williamsburg store showed upticks on weekends and nights compared to other Duane Reade units, and that prompted the company to expand the bar concept. The 72nd Street location’s demographic fit well, so the company decided to retrofit the store to include a Growler Bar. “That location has been just as successful, if not more so, than the Williamsburg store,” Tiberio says.

Duane Reade, which has approximately 250 stores, is now scouting new locations where Growler Bars could be a lucrative addition. “We have about 60 stores coming up for renovation,” Tiberio said. “We’re looking at each of them to find homes for our next Growler Bars—hopefully by October of this year.” While hinting that the next location might be near Union Square in Manhattan, Tiberio stressed that no final decision has been made. “We haven’t worked out all the details, but there will definitely be more Brew York City Growler Bars in the future,” he said.

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