The challenging economic climate has spelled the end for the only craft brewery in Chemainus.
On Thursday morning, a bailiff changed the locks on Riot Brewing Co., which has served the community since 2014.
“We fell behind in our rent,” says co-founder Ralph Rosenke. “It’s been a tough go, with sick days and three stat holidays in five months as a small business owner when you’re cash-strapped.”
Riot Brewing has earned several industry awards, but awards don’t pay bills.
The notice taped to the brewery’s front door says the business is in arrears by more than $23,000. Rosenke said there was interest from numerous parties to buy the business, but an agreement couldn’t be reached.
In November, CHEK News reported that the craft brewery industry in B.C. faced a hazy outlook, and industry experts predicted 10 to 15 per cent of the province’s almost 250 breweries would close in 2024.
The soaring cost of ingredients, shipping, and staffing paired with inflation are proving to be too much for some small businesses. Rosenke says he’s aware of others facing closure.
“I think this is just the beginning, unfortunately,” he says.
Rosenke says post-pandemic patronage is down, and there are new consumer habits in play.
“The next generation is more sober-conscious. They’re not going out as much as we did back in the day,” he says.
Another factor is repayment of the Canada Emergency Business Account Loans, due Jan. 18.
- Chemainus brewery releasing special sour beer created during windstorm
- ‘An honour’: Vancouver Island breweries win 13 awards at Canada Beer Cup
James Robinson was a regular at the brewery and is sad to see a community staple close. “It was always a welcoming place for everybody,” he says.
With the liquidation of the business’s assets underway, Rosenke encourages buyers to come forward.
“Get the bidding going, so I don’t lose my house,” he says with a smile.
While he’s sad to close this chapter, he’s proud of what he helped create.
“This whole week has been people coming in saying they never would have met the people in their lives if –” he pauses, stifling a tear. “It’s just all about the community and we did that part well.”
WATCH: Order Up: Riot Brewing