Opening a Brewery During Pandemic? Outrun Brewing Did It!

It wasn’t as much as other people telling co-owners Josh Miller and Ryan Silva that they were crazy for opening a brewery during a global pandemic as much as they just felt crazy themselves for doing it. Opening during the COVID-19 outbreak obviously wasn’t a part of the pair’s dream.

When people come by the Stone Mountain, Georgia brewery that opened July 3, they ask how long Outrun Brewing Company has been open.

“I say, ‘Oh, we just opened,’ and they go, ‘Oh wow, that’s unfortunate for you,’” Silva said with a chuckle.

The plans for the nostalgia-inducing 80s/90s-themed brewery has been in the works for more than two years. It was just time to open, Silva explained, so the business wouldn’t just keep hemorrhaging money.

“Everyone’s brewery story is, you know, it was really hard, and this is just another layer to it, that opening is already hard, without adding this to it,” Silva said.

Though both were homebrewers before meeting each other, and Silva admitting he wasn’t very good at it, they both wanted more experience. Silva always wanted to open a brewery, but he wanted to work at one first to get a better beer education and set himself up for success. Miller had a similar mindset in that he eventually wanted to open a brewery of his own, but wanted more experience.

The pair met while working at Three Taverns. In a sense, working at Three Taverns helped with the business side, to see what was working and what wasn’t, but Miller said working at Three Taverns mostly cemented the pair’s brewing knowledge.

They were originally planning to open OutRun Brewing (dubbed both as a reference to the 80s video game and the 80s electronic music subgenre) in March of 2019.

“One thing or another goes wrong or is delayed, and it just kept pushing our date back,” Miller said. Then the pandemic hit the US, which pushed the date even more. At that point, though, Miller and Silva were ready to open. They tried to hold out in the beginning, to wait and see what would happen and to wait for more information to come out so they could be better prepared.
“It kind of gave us some time to stop and flip things around a little bit,” Miller said. “Luckily our taproom is pretty flexible. It’s very easy to change things and move it around and create a space that’s more pandemic-ready.”

The brewery is in an old garage with doors that slide open so even when customers are inside, they’re not closed in, and even then, there is plenty of outdoor space. The pair feels fortunate that a large outdoor space was part of the plan prior to COVID since it allows for more people and keeps customers feeling safe.

One of the biggest challenges the pair has faced during COVID-19 is building a customer base in a time where it’s hard to be trusting of a business you don’t know.

“To trust a new business with something like your safety is difficult,” Silva said. “It’s difficult to earn that trust, whereas some businesses have been operating for years, and they have the public trust that they’re responsible businesses. For us, it’s like, ‘Oh, they’re new and there’s a pandemic,’ so it’s not the best combination of things.”

So Outrun has to work extra hard to make customers feel safe, which includes utilizing the ample outdoor space, creating an obvious flow of where people should walk, having hand sanitizer everywhere, and being strategic in hiring staff who are willing to follow the rules.

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