The Black Hops Brewery in Langford makes, sells and serves its own beer, but it might not be for much longer.
“We’re on the verge of going out of business,” said owner Graham Hafey. “On the provincial level and the federal level, we’ve been left high and dry with very little support.”
The business owner has been denied financial support from all levels of government, even though he qualifies for it.
To qualify for the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy, the local pub needed to show that it had paid staff before March 15 — which it did.
Somewhere along the line, someone made a mistake and it was out of the running for the money.
Alistair MacGregor, Cowichan—Malahat—Langford MP, said the CRA is to blame.
“For Graham, who’s doing some amazing work for the community and for veterans, for him to be suffering because of a mistake that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) made, that’s why I’ve been going to bat for him and will continue to do so,” MacGregor told CHEK News.
MacGregor has pulled out all of the stops to try and help the brewery. He’s written letters to the Ministry of Finance, called the provincial and federal ministers, and sent in proof to the CRA that the pub qualifies for the support. So far, they say they have not heard back from anyone.
It’s not just the commercial rent support they are missing out on.
Black Hops Brewery opened right when the pandemic hit, meaning it couldn’t show a loss of revenue due to COVID, leaving Graham out of the running for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy as well.
“People like to blame the government, but in this case, they could have helped instead of fighting back to make sure we didn’t get benefits,” said Graham.
He says the brewery is missing out on more than $85,000 in support, enough for him to keep the business running.
But now, he says it looks as though they’ll have to shut their doors in January.
For Graham and his brewery, it’s much more than just beer at stake.
He himself is a veteran and started Veterans 2 Veterans (V2V) and the brewery to raise money for organizations that help ex-military members.
One of those organizations is the Cockrell House in Colwood, which provides shelter to homeless veterans.
“If graham had to close down it would be a tragedy,” said Don Kelsall, a current resident of the Cockrell House.
Don used to serve for the Canadian Navy and suffers from PTSD from his time spent deployed.
“People just don’t understand the mindset of what you’re going through. Even my kids asked me, ‘Who are you?’ And I thought, what do you mean? I’m your father. But I wasn’t. I wasn’t the same person who left and came back,” said Kelsall.
When he needed it most, the Cockrell House helped him get his life back in order.
“It gave me a physical address. It gave me a roof over my head. It gave me support. It gave me a chance to get back on my feet,” said the veteran, who then went back to school and completed his education, graduating from Camosun College after studying mental health and addictions.
“I was diagnosed with PTSD and so my idea was to help others be able to overcome the horrible fact of PTSD and how it ruins lives.”
He now plans on helping others work through their PTSD and says although others donate to the Cockrell House, Black Hops’ constant support was very important.
Graham says they haven’t been able to donate as much as he had hoped this year. If the brewery goes under, so does its support for veteran organizations.
“If you’re thinking of buying beer, don’t support the macro breweries, you know? Budweiser is going to survive but we’re probably not going to survive,” said Graham, who urges everyone to ask liquor stores to start stocking their shelves with Black Hops ‘brew.
“Some people who rely on support, they won’t be getting that support. It’ll be a tough pill to swallow.”
For now, he is hoping the CRA will grant him the support he deserves and will try his best to stay open in the New Year.
READ MORE: Local restaurant teams up with Langford brewery to raise money for veterans