Brewing up a business in Covid time

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23/9/2020 Story David Raleigh. Against all odds in the middle of a pandemic three young entrepreneurs are opening a wet pub and brewery in an old fire station on Thomas st., Limerick. Two of the young investors Jono Crute and Joel Anderson are eagerly awaiting Friday. Photograph Liam Burke/Press 22

A new Limerick wet bar and brewery is to open its doors for the first time, despite the ongoing turbulent backdrop of Covid-19 restrictions and threat of closure faced by publicans around the country, the Limerick post can reveal.

And, while alarm bells may be ringing in their ears, from their new bar – based in a former Limerick fire station – the Crew Brewing Company, is working flat out to welcome their first customers, this Friday.
Battling the odds, three Belfast entrepreneurs Jono Crute, Gareth Cash, and Joel Anderson, have also established what may be Ireland’s smallest brewery, located at the back of their pub on Thomas Street, which will supply the booze directly to the taps.
Crew will be offering mainly craft beers from small independent Irish producers as well as spirits.
“Opening during a world pandemic where (pubs) are closing may sound crazy to some. In fact, now I say it out loud, it does sound crazy,” said Crute.
His business partner, Cash, explained they started the venture “before” Covid-19 hit, and they were too far gone in the plans to stop.
They’ve received “significant financial support from the Local Enterprise Office in Limerick as well as our families and friends”, Cash said.
“Business involves taking risks and while some may think this is crazy there are many very successful examples of businesses which opened in tough times through the years,” he added.
The business’s name is, in part, a tribute to the firefighters who previously worked out of the premises when it was a station-house, as well as being a metaphor for community spirit in hard times.
Crute said their original plan was to open last April: “We had all the planning, and all the brewing equipment ordered prior to any sign of Covid being an issue, so we have just been waiting.”
“We probably have Ireland’s smallest brewery, in the back of the pub. We have four fermentation tanks and then we have serving tanks behind the bar which we’ll be serving direct from.”
“You couldn’t get more than one person in the brewery. I’ve been working in there for the last few weeks, brewing, and it’s fairly tight.”
“It’s definitely unique and we’ve got a lot of support, and people just cant believe we are doing this under the circumstances.”
Crute, 29, is a master brewer while Cash and Anderson, both in their 30s, have been involved in the hospitality trade.
They will be also serving “non-alcoholic” as well as “gluten-free” beer.
With the opening date within their grasp, amid tightening of restrictions, they are “excited” and “anxious” in equal measure.
“We’ve been waiting now a long while for guidelines and how to do it safely, we have no interest in being open if it’s a public health issue.”
“We are happy, if its not safe, to not open, because even though it’s obviously a disaster for our trade, we are not in the business of putting people’s health at risk, so there’s anxiety.”
They’ve rescued capacity from 100 to 50 to meet its Covid-friendly status.
“We were kind of at a point of no return, to be honest, and like a lot of people we didn’t realise how long the lockdown would be for pubs,” he said.
“When it was first announced we were expecting maybe a month to get everything under control, but obviously for everyone it has been a lot longer than we had hoped.”