So Ron, When Will You Be Opening?

It’s not the Winter anymore, we are solidly into Spring.  That was my ‘worst case’ target for awhile.  That target has passed.

I get this question more and more…I hate answering it – not that I’m annoyed, but that I feel bad that I’m still not open when I said I would be.  I take it to heart – especially public timelines such as this!

So where am I at?

Interior: It’s mostly done except for tidying up loose ends.  We still have to order barstools and figure-out the high-top tables.  The kitchen is coming together.  I’m still working on wall decor too.

Beer: The first batch of ‘Rubber City Red’ is kegged.  A small batch of stout and Hefewiezen are about to be filtered and kegged.  I ran into scale-up trouble on the Amarillo IPA – mainly process issues, more on that later.  The fourth batch, the Towpath’n Pale Ale is just beginning fermentation.  I planned to open when I have 12 excellent beers on tap, I only have one so far.  A typical beer is about a two to three week turnaround.  I have five fermentors…you do the math!  I have a little bit…

Bar stuff:  We are working on flight prototypes – something easy.  We’re also making sure that we can pour the 12 little samples quickly, and without foam.

But…

What I’m really waiting on is some final issues with the Summit County Division of Building Standards.  I just submitted some stuff early last week and hope to hear back soon.  This is regarding ‘occupancy’ – essentially how many people you can have in your building at one time.  The old adage is that your local government is the worst government to deal with.  I sure hope that’s NOT the case as I have had no bad experiences with Akron, or Summit County as of yet – being a proud Akronite for my entire life (40 years!). Getting zoning approval actually ended up going smooth – the first thing I had to make sure before signing a lease.  Akron’s zoning department was super fast in checking out my specific case and getting me approval for my location.  Going into this I thought that dealing with the Feds or the State would be my biggest hurdle.  That Federal Brewers application is long and daunting!  Every step of the way the Feds AND State people have answered the phone and my questions…which were many – before I even committed to this!  I even have my inquiries into the Summit County Health department (food) answered by a return phonecall the next day – I didn’t expect that.  I applaud them.  I wanted to make sure that my ducks were in a row BEFORE signing a lease.

Going into a Federally regulated industry is not easy.  Even on the State level there are lot’s of forms and things to fill out – and continue to fill out even after being approved, and not to mention –  pop inspections.  So far, every agency has been nice and responsive – way more responsive and helpful than your local cable, phone or utilities company.  This Summit County Division of Building Standards is the last bureaucracy that is left to get some approvals from.  Frankly, I’m a little skittish.  Honestly, I’m not quite sure what to expect.  I have put in phonecalls and emails as far back as June of last year just to get information before I fully committed to signing a three year lease (yikes!), but still without a call or email back to me.  I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt as they do service all new or updated construction in all of Summit County – of course they are super busy, that’s a big area.

I even put in a plea last week to move my application to the top of the pile.  Let’s face it.  I have been burning through lease payments, insurance and utilities since August – nine months of this.  That’s not to mention any money to brewing equipment, interior stuff, etc.  I’m at the end of my line.  I can’t plant anymore money trees.  And we won’t even get into the stress that this has put on my marriage (let’s just say that my wife and I got into a heated argument at the Kalahari breakfast place months back and nearly cleared the place), this process, and especially the length of time it has taken (my fault in putting out, in retrospect, unrealistic timelines) is really putting the stress on our relationship. I needed that argument though as it let me know how this has been affecting her.  “Work harder, spend less, get this open NOW.” This is a self-financed operation, and I didn’t have much to start with in the first place.  This is a leap for me and my family that is not without risk.

I’m just about out of money, leveraged and about a month away from really being ready to open.  And I have one of the most expensive things to purchase next: bar stools and tables.  I hope Summit County comes through as Akron, the State and Feds did, let’s go Summit County!  Please help a new small business get going!

So what next?

I will be finishing up all the little details.  A lot of brewing is planned.  I still have some process issues to sort out.  I have inventory to build.  I need to work on tap handles for kegging to other bars to start offsetting the steady, monthly tick-tock of rent, insurance and utilities if this process drags out.  I also have to start changing this website into a more product-related website.

Soooo…I honestly hope, for my families sake, and for good-beer-for-Akron’s sake, that I can open early June – even late May (I would relish a mad, last-minute push).

How are you handling all of this Ron?

It’s funny, up until I had the brewing equipment in and usable for testing, it has been ‘easy’ – I just had to worry about getting the place ready (cooler, flooring, bar, bathroom facelift, hooking up brewery equipment, mostly cosmetic stuff).  Now that I can brew and optimize the system, I don’t have enough hours in the day to do both.  I’m getting by with the help from my Dad, Jesse, a few others…and my wife even pulls some assistant brewer shifts, but mentally it’s a lot to keep a handle on.  I need to be done with the interior so I can focus on brewing.  Almost there…

Thanks!

I have to thank my wife in putting up with me and this process so far.  Yes, this was a joint decision, but it has been very stressful nonetheless with lot’s of unexpected ‘not on the spreadsheet’ things.  Even though she is feeling the stress, she is still developing some great beer and food recipes and working on the kitchen.  She has really gotten into beer – stouts no-less, from a few years ago.  She is singlehandedly responsible for a few stouts and porters that will be absolutely awesome.  She has been indispensable throughout this with beer ideas and just focusing on things that I mentally can’t yet (glassware,  flights, kitchen equipment, etc.)

I hope to finally take my window and door coverings down soon to invite you in.

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