Remember These Things Before Opening a New Taproom

A few months back we had the pleasure of having a conversation with Bent Paddle’s Pepin Young on a variety of topics about opening a new taproom.

Another aspect he explored for Brewer was thoughts on what to look for before the opening. Bent Paddle opened more than a decade ago and expanded into a new taproom during that time. The brewery also took advantage of a state law that allowed THC-infused beverages and created an NA taproom that serves that type of beverage as well.

A big hurdle, Young said, would be making sure that your licensing is correct.

“Here in Minnesota, you’re only allowed to have one taproom,” he said. “So if you were to separate your taproom from your production facility, you also have to have an additional brewery. When we opened our taproom, we had to build another brewery.

That meant a new seven-barrel pilot system was created for the production brewery.

“I would say know the laws and the regulations and the rules, and be prepared for it to take longer than you think,” he said. 

READ MORE: How To Start Hosting Events At Your Brewery Or Taproom

Know your municipality, he added. 

“We try to have really good relationships with their municipality, and with of the folks that are really operating more than double to tripled the amount of workload that they ever have had in the past. So their hands are tied,” he warned. “There’s also cities and counties that are more friendly. So when you’re thinking about where you’re going to going to potentially be starting a business — whether it’s a brewery, or it’s any type of business really — look at who you are working with as a partner. Because your city is your partner, and what you want to do, and what they want you to do, might be very different. 

“I’ve definitely heard of stories where people have propped themselves up in what was originally a really super, brewery-friendly municipality. And then you have some change, and elections, and all these different things. And not everybody sees everything the same. So, maintaining those relationships is super, super important. And knowing what city you’re gonna be in and what is their appetite for supporting small business.”

Staffing a new taproom is a huge thing as well and Bent Paddle prides itself on having an incredibly low turnover rate. 

“That’s because of the philosophy of having a life inside of the life outside of a life,” Young said. “We want to draw people to us that have things going on in their lives that really fulfill them. It’s a balance of having enough going on outside of the taproom in the brewery that fulfills you as much as what can fulfill you from the inside.”

Building in a space where you know that you have a population and a workforce is pretty important too. 

“If you’re thinking about putting yourself up in a sleeper community or a farm community you have to think about how many people are going to be there,” Young said. “You may be able to get the customers, but will you be able to draw the staffing to staff the business is a thing too.”

It’s going to take longer, so Young said to prepare financially for that. 

“I have a construction background, and I always like to tell people to take the highest number that that you’ve been told it’s going to cost and add 30%,” he said. “Or lower your expectations by 70% and then add 10%. Because it doesn’t move both ways. You can always spend more, but very, very rarely are you going to spend less. And so make sure your financials are in order and that you have a solid business plan to be able to ROI that investment that you’re going to be putting into your space. 

“Don’t build it just because you want to and you think it’s going to be cool, build it because it’s effectively going to help propel your business forward and create sustainability in your business.”

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