“Managing a business through a pandemic is not for sissies.”
That is what Susan Miller with Bold City Brewery told me when I interviewed her for this article. Susan and her son, Brian Miller, started Bold City Brewery in 2008 during the recession. They survived that economic downturn and built a successful family business brewing beer and distributing it throughout Florida. Over time, they developed a strong brand and registered the trademarks for several of their beers (MAD MANATEE IPA, KILLER WHALE CREAM ALE, and DUKE’S COLD NOSE BROWN ALE) with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
At the beginning of 2020, Bold City Brewery employed 14 people. They operated the brewery plus two tap rooms, one on Rosselle Street and another downtown on East Bay Street. They also supplied beer to restaurants, bars, package stores, and large grocery stores like Publix, Walmart, and Whole Foods throughout Florida.
Then the pandemic came to our state. Bold City Brewery was forced to close their downtown tap room and convert the tap room on Rosselle Street to takeout only. The side of their business supplying beer to restaurants, bars, and package stores dropped drastically.
Bold Moves to Protect Their Bold City Family
So, Susan and Brian focused on trying to keep all 14 employees by doing whatever they needed to keep the business going. Everyone took a 20% pay cut. They decreased the size of the brewery so they could reduce rent. They cut back on every expense that was not vital to the success of the business. Their sales reps who try to get Bold City beer into large retail stores started doing cold calls instead of meeting in person with potential customers. They hired an additional sales rep in an effort to increase distribution to places other than bars and restaurants. They worked with their bankers to get loan payments deferred for six months and they were able to obtain a PPP loan.
June started out as a good month. That is when Florida started allowing restaurants and bars to reopen. Then there was an increase in the spread of the virus after Memorial Day, when large crowds of people gathered in bars and at parties.
At the end of June, the state again forced all bars to shut down due to the spread of the virus. With restaurants still struggling to survive, sales dropped in July and August. Thankfully, though, Bold City Brewery was able to obtain a restaurant license for their downtown tap room. This allowed it to reopen when bars were kept shut.
Staying Bold in a Changing World
Now, with football season just starting up, the Rosselle Street tap room is actually doing better this year than compared to the same time last year. However, orders for Bold City beer are still 40% below what’s needed to gain financial stability.
The latest issue is a shortage of cans in the United States for beer. Bold City is not quite sure why it is happening, but it is apparently related to the pandemic and the ability of can manufacturers to meet demand for their product.
Bold City Brewery is hoping sales will pick up as more people watch sports on television at home and at sports bars. Additionally, since the weather is cooler, it is a good time to sit outside for a barbecue with family.
To date, not one employee at Bold City Brewery has been laid off. They have all worked effectively as a cohesive team to keep the business going. Everyone has made sacrifices. The owners and employees of Bold City are hopeful they will get through this pandemic intact and that they will be able to start brewing new brands of beer soon.
Susan Miller is correct: “Managing a business through a pandemic is not for sissies.”