Robot Brewing Takes Over the Funky Buddha’s Brewery and Hookah Lounge

Ryan Sentz has handed over the Funky Buddha Lounge & Brewery in Boca Raton, Florida, to family friend and homebrewer Allen Steen, who is transforming the space into the Robot Brewing Company & Quixotic Lounge.

Sentz, the founder of Funky Buddha, told Brewbound that the transaction, which was finalized about a month ago, gives Robot Brewing the lounge’s 1-barrel brewery and neighboring homebrew supply shop for “zero dollars.” Neither the intellectual property, including recipes, nor the land and building were included in the deal.

“We literally took nothing, with no personal guarantee,” Sentz said. “For us, this is giving someone an opportunity.”

Sentz said Steen made a $30,000 downpayment, which was returned under the condition that it be invested into the business. Sentz added that he and his wife, Giani, can make upwards of about $250,000 over five years on the transaction if certain benchmarks are reached.

Sentz held the small brewery and hookah lounge — where the Funky Buddha brand was created in 2006 — out of the beer company’s sale last August to Constellation Brands. However, the couple quickly realized that they didn’t have the time needed to invest into running the business.

“A place like that, you need an active owner present,” Sentz said.

In a Facebook post last Thursday announcing the deal with Robot Brewing, Sentz wrote that he Giani were never certain how to move forward with the Boca Raton location after selling the brewery to Constellation.

“After months and months of ideas and propositions, we ultimately thought the best thing for us and the business especially was to find someone with the same passion and excitement that carried us all these years,” he wrote. “We found those people ten-fold with Allen Steen and his wife Natalia Vallejos.”

Steen and Sentz have been friends for several years, and the pair collaborated on a beer for the Great American Beer Festival’s Pro-Am Competition in 2017. It was at GABF that Sentz floated the idea of selling the lounge to Steen, and the two began serious discussions in January.

Speaking to Brewbound, Steen told Brewbound that he and Vallejos own a majority stake in Robot Brewing, along with four minority investors. He added that the company would retain the lounge’s 10 employees, including brewers Scott Chadwick and AJ Spagnola.

“They have tons of freedom to experiment and do what they want,” he said.

While Chadwick and Spagnola create experimental brews, Steen said he will turn his attention to creating farmhouse ales. He added that he expects Robot Brewing to produce about 180 barrels annually while brewing about four times a week.

Although Steen is giving the lounge a fresh coat of paint, he said Robot Brewing plans to keep the site’s dimly lighted aesthetic, hookahs and live entertainment, including open mic nights, live music and comedy shows.

“The lounge is like a really, really weird and eclectic place with a really chill vibe,” he said. “We love that, and it’s something we want to keep here — a relaxed and welcoming vibe.”

As for Funky Buddha, the Oakland Park craft brewery’s sales increased 18 percent to 31,658 barrels in 2017, according to data from the Brewers Association.

Total depletions for Funky Buddha, which now ships beer to six states (Florida, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia) and Washington, D.C., are up about 28 percent this year, Sentz told Brewbound.

“It helps opening up new markets, but we’re just now hitting our stride,” he said.

Distribution won’t be the only growth avenue for Funky Buddha. Following the model of another Constellation-owned craft brewery, Ballast Point, Funky Buddha has begun looking at potential future taproom sites in Florida as well as out of state, Sentz said.

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