Comment: Vancouver Island Brewing is fermenting ideas to tackle challenge

A commentary by the marketing director of Vancouver Island Brewing. Part of our continuing series on the impact of COVID-19 on local businesses.

Since our conception as Island Pacific Brewing in 1984, Vancouver Island Brewing has always been inspired by our community and the dedicated team who work tirelessly to keep us afloat in challenging times.

Now more than ever, we lean on the skills of our people to drive innovative ideas and pivot our marketing, production, sales and tasting-room plans to adjust to the changes during this pandemic.

Like many other organizations, we have seen a considerable decline in revenue due to the loss of on-premise draught sales, which is a large portion of our business. In late May, we started receiving a small number of draught orders with the announcement that pubs and restaurants were now permitted to reopen, but we do not expect to reach our targets set for 2020, as seating capacities will be considerably lower.

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Although we saw a slight increase in package sales at the beginning of COVID-19, those numbers have also settled down and we are seeing declines in both volume and revenues. Our leadership team continues to re-evaluate daily to ensure we are doing what is right for our business and our team members.

During this unprecedented time, we reflect on our values as a company and as a team — being an explorer, being resilient, being neighbourly and to be yourself —in all our decision-making. These values drive our culture and bring us together. Each day, our brew crew shows its resilience by putting in extra efforts with new safety protocols, and our sales team is working night shifts on the pack line instead of being out with their customers.

When reflecting on what a good neighbour can do during the pandemic, we decided to donate our excess draught beer to Stillhead Distillers in Duncan so they can strip it and turn it into much-needed hand sanitizer.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we had to find a way to serve our customers directly, but with the safety of our team at the forefront.

We introduced a new delivery service and online store, with our tasting-room team taking on new roles and hitting the streets with beer in tow. The overwhelming response from locals was incredible. Unfortunately, during the past few weeks as things have started opening up, we have seen considerably fewer deliveries.

Now, with British Columbia in Phase 2 of reopening, we are thrilled to announce that our tasting room is open with our new lounge. We were recently approved for our lounge endorsement just a few days after closing our tasting room due to COVID-19, and after years of applications and approval processes. We are now able to serve a full glass of beer or package product to go.

We did not take reopening lightly. Our team has done its research and is taking the guidelines set out by WorkSafe B.C. very seriously to ensure our customers and staff are safe, with respect to social-distancing and cleanliness.

Please consider supporting your local restaurants, pubs and breweries, and help keep Victoria businesses running strong.

Online: vibrewing.com

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