The coronavirus pandemic devastated Ohio bars and restaurants. Dozens of tavernas, pubs, and restaurants have closed in central Ohio since the virus hit the state in March.
However, craft breweries still open with a healthy clip.
Since the pandemic hit Buckeye state, nine breweries have opened in central Ohio and five have closed. Nationwide 47 open and 15 closed.
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The trend doesn’t necessarily mean small breweries are thriving – though few would claim the coronavirus has taken Ohio’s appetite for craft beer. Most of the openings were in the works before the pandemic, as it usually takes a craft brewery months or years to go from the drawing board to the opening.
10 Breweries Opened In And Around Franklin County Amid COVID-19
An official list from the Ohio Craft Brewers Association lists 10 openings in Franklin County and surrounding counties during the pandemic of six closings. However, the 1487 brewery is on both lists as it closed its taproom in Alexandria and moved to Plain City.
Late opening wasn’t an option for most of the nine breweries that went online last year.
“These people opening breweries have likely been in the planning stage since the pre-pandemic,” said Mary MacDonald, executive director of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association. “Many already had a room to rent and were investing in equipment. Once invested, the best way to generate income is to produce beer and open it as wide as possible. “
Buckeye Lake Brewery owner Rich Hennosy has long tried to expand operations in Seedorf, Counties of Fairfield and Licking, but “we couldn’t get bigger space in Buckeye Lake,” he said.
When officials from Reynoldsburg found out that he wanted to expand his beer production, they asked him to think about their town, Hennosy said. The brewery owner began investigating buildings in the suburbs in the summer of 2018 and eventually found the structure that would house Eastside Brewing Co., which also includes a taproom.
“That’s where we earn our money,” said Hennosy.
Delays in raising funds have postponed the opening date – right into the pandemic. If Hennosy hadn’t already had a successful brewery in Buckeye Lake, he might have considered the expansion.
The struggles of opening up due to a pandemic
At least one brewery opened a taproom during the pandemic that was not previously planned.
Derive Brewing Co. has brewed beer on a contract basis, and this summer, owners Lucas Sherrill and Peter Steffes were offered the opportunity to purchase the Clintonville space that once housed SIP Local that was closed months earlier. Steffes said the opportunity was too good to be missed.
“Clintonville has a great craft beer community,” he said.
It wasn’t a smooth sailing. Derive was temporarily closed after one of Steffes and Sherrill’s business partners tested positive for COVID-19.
“We are closed for a total of 11 days,” said Steffes. “The weather was still fine, that was a lot of loss of income. It probably took us a month, if not more, to recover from it. “
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It’s unclear whether most of the brewery closings in the area are related to the pandemic, and representatives from several defunct breweries in central Ohio have not responded to comments.
Gordon Biersch in the Arena District is among the closings, however, and bars and restaurants in the Arena District have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic as events at the Nationwide Arena and the Greater Columbus Convention Center have been suspended.
Elevator Brewing Co. owner Dick Stevens, 81, gave his age and low taproom sales when asked why he decided to close the brewery in October and sell it to Jackie O’s brewery in Athens, who took over the space in the inner city of the venerable beer producer.
The time it takes to get a brewery up and running depends on a number of factors.
“When you’re building a brewery from scratch, it can take years from concept to completion,” said Justin Hemminger, associate director of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association.
Jon St. Julian, co-owner of Crooked Can Brewing Co. in Hilliard, said the fledgling brewery had been in operation for about three years before gently opening in early February. However, Governor Mike DeWine closed most non-essential businesses in mid-March before the taproom could be fully opened
“We obviously didn’t plan to open during a pandemic,” said St. Julian.
Construction workers laid the foundation stone for Edison Brewing Co. in Gahanna in 2018, and the owner planned to open the taproom in 2019. Construction delays dragged on until 2020, and work was not yet complete when DeWine ordered its temporary closings.
“We had items for the brewhouse from overseas,” said owner Wil Schulze. “Parts and parts of the system have been delayed. As a result, the interior of the building was completed a little more slowly. “
Edison opened its doors on July 30th and gave customers a first taste of what the European-style beer maker has to offer. And the work is not yet finished, said Schulze.
“We are preparing to expand the beer garden to make it even more of an outdoor area,” he said.
Bars and restaurants have turned to patios after infectious disease experts warned that the virus was spreading faster indoors.
Despite the openings, there’s no doubt that small beer producers struggled to make ends meet over the past year.
St. Julian said he and his business partner had forecasted sales ahead of the pandemic, but “it’s nowhere near what we expected. We have never been open in a normal environment. “
Breweries are selling their preparations to restaurants and other bars affected by restrictions designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus, as well as to customers who prefer to enjoy their meals at home.
The same factors also drove down taproom sales that smaller breweries depend on for higher profit margins.
Hennosy expects more craft breweries to close in the coming months as their savings have been used up.
“I think everyone is trying to hold out until spring,” he said.
The first Ohioans were vaccinated against the coronavirus in the final days of 2020, but vaccines are not expected to be available to the general public for a few months.
Come and go
Breweries that opened during the pandemic include:
- Crooked box, Hilliard
- Derive Brewing Co., Clintonville
- Eastside Brewing Co., Reynoldsburg
- Edison Brewing Co., Gahanna
- Jackie O’s, downtown
- North High Brewing, Dublin
- Saucy Brew Works, west side
- Spiers Social Brewing Co., Polaris
- Wolf’s Ridge Manufacturing Brewery, Hilltop
Breweries that have closed during the pandemic include:
- Commonhouse Ales, German village
- Eldridge and Fiske Brewing Co., Lithopolis
- Elevator Brewing Co., downtown
- Gordon Biersch, Arena District
- SIP Local, Clintonville