B.C. Beer Blog

The who, what, where, when, why, and how of B.C. craft beer

SYWTOABP 2: Why do I want to open a brew pub?

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Spinnakers SignThis is the second in a series of posts investigating just how much work goes into opening a brew pub in British Columbia.

Anyone who’s spent sufficient time sitting on a bar stool has probably thought about opening a bar or a pub, I know I have.  You like beer right?  You know what good beer is, you’ve watched the bartender pour and mix drinks, it doesn’t look that hard.  What could be better than owning your own bar?

Alas there is a huge gap between sitting in a pub and actually opening the doors of a new establishment, a chasm that doesn’t get crossed by too many people.  It takes a lot of effort and perseverance to open any business, so you better make sure you’re committed and that you know exactly why you want to pursue this path.

There is lots of advice online about starting an entrepreneurial venture. I know, as I’ve been tasked with writing about it myself.  There are experts and gurus and consultants galore.  However, before you choose a guru or hire someone, you should take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself why.

Guy Kawasaki in “The Art of the Start“, the definitive guide for anyone starting anything, says:

“The best reason to start an organization is to make meaning – to create a product or service that makes the world a better place.”

If that sounds too lofty or like too much work you should turn back now.  For every 10 bars that open, 7 fail in the first 3 years.

Still here? The takeaways from the first chapter of another book I mentioned last time are as follows:

  • Running a bar requires long hours of work.
  • To be a successful bar owner, you need to be outgoing, enjoy the public, have a strong work ethic, and bring a bit of magic to your establishment.
  • Serving alcohol is a privilege that comes with a lot of responsibility.
  • You need to have some experience working in a bar before opening your own bar.
  • Working in a chain bar will help you learn efficient systems and may help you get funding easier.
  • This business is all about selling fun.

Entrepreneur.com put together the following questionnaire to help people determine if they were really cut out to start and run a bar/pub:

  1. Are you prepared to give up lazy weekends hanging around the house and vacations for at least the next year—possibly three years?
  2. Can you handle going to work every day without the security of knowing what to expect when you get there?
  3. Are you willing to risk your savings for your business?
  4. Are you willing and able to work seven days a week and 12 or more hours a day if necessary?
  5. Are you willing to sacrifice your social life for the success of your bar?
  6. Can you take on the responsibility of leading a staff and conquering obstacles when everyone else has given up?
  7. Are you a late-night person?
  8. Do you feel comfortable being the host of the party and striking up conversations with total strangers?
  9. Are you comfortable dealing with large amounts of cash on a daily basis?
  10. Can you say “no” to free drinks for your friends, relatives, business associates, and employees?

Spinnakers Brew PubApparently, if you answer “no” to any of those questions, you should reconsider opening a bar or, in our case, a brew pub.

Now that I’ve scared away the majority of my readership, I have some good news.  There are a lot of successful publicans in British Columbia.  I reached out to some of them, specifically those that have started brew pubs.  I’m still hoping to hear back from a few more so that I can sprinkle their hard-earned experience and passion around my depressing reality. So thanks to the folks behind the Longwood Brew Pub in Nanaimo and Spinnakers in Victoria for agreeing to answer my questions.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of opening a brew pub in BC?

Be organized, be financially stable, be proactive. Understand all the pitfalls that can stop a construction of this nature. Hire people to help you avoid the pitfalls of this type of business construction. Hire people that can help you set up the operation side ( front of house and back of house ). Remember that a brew pub must have a kitchen, cooks, servers, bartenders, hosts and of course a brewer. Overbuild the brewery storage capacity because if you brew great beer there will be a market to sell out of the house. Market yourselves. You must let people know who you are and what great products you offer. Do not compromise your product with inferior raw materials nor alienate your patrons with too many fad or trend beers.

Paul Hadfield’s answer was much more direct:

Do it! Every restaurant has a kitchen. Every pub should have a brewery.

The next article will deal with market and industry research, but I also have more insights and stories from those already in the industry which I will continue to mix in.  The photos of Spinnakers are taken by my sister and former regular there, Samantha McKay.


Written by Muskie

June 17, 2011 at 6:48 pm

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