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B.C.’s craft beer industry starting to see permanent closures during pandemic

Last Updated May 4, 2020 at 12:13 pm PST

Summary

Some craft beer breweries in the province are starting to close permanently because of the pandemic

Many larger brewers with canning lines, bottling capability are hanging on with the help of government emergency relief

Boundary Brewing in Kelowna is one of the breweries forced to shut down

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — B.C.’s craft beer scene is known for its creativity, and it has taken some for many brewers to survive during the pandemic.

However, we are starting to see some permanent closures in the industry, including Boundary Brewing in Kelowna.

“Boundary is the first I’m aware of that won’t be reopening and I have to believe there will be others,” says Rob Mangelsdorf, editor of The Growler magazine. 

“The breweries that are getting hit hardest are the ones relying on keg sales and tasting room sales and don’t have packaged product readily available. With restaurants, bars and pubs being closed, that’s their entire customer base. As the owner of Boundary Brewing said, their keg sales went to zero overnight, and that’s their entire business model.”

Mangelsdorf says many larger brewers with canning lines and bottling capability are hanging on with the help of government emergency pandemic relief measures and slightly shifted business models.

“What I’m hearing is that the federal government’s relief efforts for small businesses are helping a lot – things like the wage subsidy and rent relief – but not everyone is eligible. Pivoting toward more packaged product and deliveries, which are low margin sales, can help keep business afloat for a few months during times like this,” Mangelsdorf tells NEWS 1130.

With many craft breweries closing their doors during measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, he believes it is inevitable others will join Boundary Brewing in shutting down permanently.

“The breweries that were struggling prior to the pandemic, the ones that were just barely holding on, those are the ones that are going to be the ones that are the first to fail, unfortunately.”

However, Mangelsdorf points out another upstart brewer has already bought the brewery vacated by Boundary and there have been openings in BC this spring. He has hope for the local craft industry, once social
isolation measures start to lift.

“Since the pandemic response started in mid-March, three breweries have opened in BC – Patina Brewing Co. in Port Coquitlam, V2V Black Hops Brewing in Langford and Jackknife Brewing in Kelowna,” he says.

“I think we will see a lot of breweries maybe not keep up deliveries – it’s hard to deliver beer to people at their front door in the middle of the day once people are out at work or doing things again. But things like provincial mailouts – where Canada Post delivers – I think we will see more of that, hopefully. I’m in Campbell River right now and it’s great to get beer from all over the province delivered to my door for the first time.”