Driftwood Brewery was handed the keys to its new home on Friday after the Capital Regional District finalized the sale of a warehouse on Viewfield Road in Esquimalt.
The CRD sold the building for $11.1 million to a Vancouver real estate investment firm — named only as 836 Viewfield Limited Partnership — which has agreed to a long-term lease for the entire 59,000-square-foot facility with the brewery.
“This is really exciting for us,” said Driftwood partner Gary Lindsay, noting that, once the space has been renovated, they will be able to consolidate all three of the brewer’s operations in one location.
The warehouse was one of two massive spaces the CRD purchased on Viewfield Road in 2014 for $17 million. The four-acre site was considered for a sewage-sludge plant.
An outcry from neighbours killed the proposed plant scheme, and the CRD put the two properties — 808 Viewfield Rd. and 836 Viewfield Rd. — up for sale.
Spinnakers Brew Pub, which had been leasing space in one of the warehouses for three years, purchased 808 Viewfield Rd. for $11.25 million last year.
Lindsay said Driftwood considered purchasing the 836 Viewfield property, where it had been leasing about 20,000 square feet of space for its bottling and canning operation, but realized it would be too expensive to buy the lot and move the brewery as well.
“This will be quite a change for us as we have been operating out of three locations — the brewery on Hillside [Avenue], our distribution warehouse and sales office on Ellery Street and the packaging space,” he said.
Lindsay said demolition and renovations are expected to start soon, with hopes that they will move the brewery over and open in spring 2021.
The new space will allow the brewery to play a bit of catch-up with the times. When it started in 2008, there were no tasting rooms attached to breweries, and the Hillside Avenue location never had enough space for them to expand.
“Part of this move will mean having a customer experience like Phillips Brewing has here and like most craft brewers in Vancouver,” Lindsay said.
“It’s an opportunity to be at a place where people can come and spend a little time, COVID permitting.”
Lindsay said the success of Driftwood, which rode the second wave of craft beer expansion when it started in 2008, has paved the way for such a move.
“We were the victims of our own success in a way. It was the problem we always wished for — not having enough space,” he said.
That is no longer a problem, though he said they are still trying to navigate their way though the pandemic.
He said while the volume of alcohol being sold might have increased overall, local brewers report sales to bars and restaurants are way down. That has improved slightly as more venues open.
“People forget the tourist piece in Victoria and downtown Vancouver is huge and that has not been filled,” he said. “At the same time, the local market has been fantastic for us.”
He said they have reaped the reward of starting their canning lines two and half years ago.
The move to Viewfield Road creates something of a craft beer hot spot as it will now sit across the street from Lighthouse Brewing and connects to the Four Mile Pub via the Galloping Goose Regional Trail.
The CRD has done well in the real estate game with the two warehouses, which will in turn benefit taxpayers.
Apart from the $3.7-million net profit expected from the combined sales of the lots, the warehouses had been covering their costs via lease agreements over the past few years.
“This is good news for taxpayers, as this positive return on investment will be credited to the Core Area Wastewater Treatment Project participants,” said Susan Brice, chairwoman of the CRD’s governance and finance committee.
“CRD staff did an incredible job managing the property, generating positive cash flow and securing tenants that are remaining in place after the change in ownership. Taxpayers will end up benefiting from the improvements and sale of this asset.”