As it was for many other businesses, the pandemic has been a challenge for OutSpoken Brewing.
Their regular operations were closed between March and June of this year.
Despite this setback, the business continued to operate, offering curbside pick-up and deliveries.
The brewery partnered with other local businesses to be able to offer something unique.
“We have been working with Meat the Butcher and Sidewinder Salsa Co. to provide our customers with options and convenience when ordering through our website,” says Kaitlynn Cruickshank, events coordinator at OutSpoken.
The brewing company promoted delivery packages offering a combination of food and beverage offerings from local partners.
“It has been great to see the different ways local businesses have been promoting and helping one another.”
Keeping active and creative also prepared them for the next stage of reopening.
“Continuing to operate in this capacity allowed [the recent] reopening of our patio and retail space to be a bit easier.”
OutSpoken only needed to bring back a few staff members to start up their patio.
“They were eager to get back to work. The owners and management did our research, and sat together to form a cohesive plan for reopening. It was very important to us that we made sure we were doing all the right things to ensure the safety of the public and our staff once we were able to open our doors.”
One of the advantages OutSpoken had to be ready for Stage 3 re-opening was the fact that they already had an established and known patio that was ready for business.
“We were ready. We had been following the protocols put in place by Algoma Public Health and the Provincial Government. Therefore, it was just a matter of ensuring we had a physically distanced floor plan indoors and creating a new policy on wearing masks while indoors,” she says.
In fact, a more few changes happened as part of their reopening plan:
- Limited one restroom for customer use to allow for regular cleaning;
- Operating at a lower capacity to ensure physical distancing;
- Ensuring all tables are spaced at 6 feet apart;
- Encouraging reservations;
- Keeping a log book of all guests visiting the patio or indoor seating;
- Ensuring all tables, chairs, menus and other touch points are being cleaned, sanitized and rinsed regularly;
- Ensuring all staff is wearing masks and washing their hands constantly;
- Installing plexiglass at the till/bar;
- Only providing beer service at tables;
- Making sure customers wear masks indoors other than when they are seated and dining;
- Discouraging patrons from touching merchandise or cans themselves;
- Directing the flow of foot traffic to ensure even when walking around, guests are physically distanced from those seated;
- Strategically placing hand sanitizer all around the brewery; and
- Continuing to offer contactless pick-up and deliveries for guests who are still weary of coming into contact with the public.
“At this point we have adapted to things changing on a regular basis. We also decided we would only open indoors during rainy days. This way we can ensure all proper cleaning and sanitizing of touch points and tables are kept up and we are still able to take care of our customers.”
Of course things have to be a little different than it used to be, but there is one thing they won’t change.
“Even with these added precautions, we want to ensure that the ‘OutSpoken Vibe’ is still present and we have been successful in that,” says Cruickshank.
The reaction from the community seems encouraging so far.
“Our patrons have all been positive, patient and understanding… the public has been fantastic. People are just happy to be out, whatever the rules are,” she says.
“We’ve been consistently busy.”
Cruickshank perceives that there has been one very positive bonus that has come about due to the pandemic: a greater push to support local.
“While we were closed [but providing curbside and delivery], we saw a lot of new names ordering our beer. Now, those new names have become regulars and friends. Once our patio re-opened all of our regulars came back and so did our new customer… we are so fortunate to live in a community that wants to support local small businesses. We are feeling pretty grateful.”
Cruickshank notes that weather has helped with their reopening.
“We are a popular spot with cyclists and it has been so great to have them back again.”
For the events coordinator, it wasn’t only about OutSpoken being able to open their patio, but for others in the community to be able to do so as well.
“I really appreciated that there was an ease on some restrictions, allowing other places to open pop-up patios when they wouldn’t be able to do so normally,” says Cruickshank.
One of the elements that has yet to come back to OutSpoken yet is the live entertainment that they offered weekly.
“Live entertainment is something we are really missing on the OutSpoken patio,” she says.
“Last summer we had music almost every week, sometimes more than one time per week. This is definitely something we are hoping to bring back in the near future as long as we are able to do so safely.”
As part of Stage 3 regulations, live acts and musicians must be behind plexiglass or another impenetrable material.
“I am trying to think of ways we can do this using our large front window,” says Cruickshank.
“Alternatively, I am researching to see if we can have musicians outdoors at a certain distance from our guests safely without an impenetrable barrier. Space is an issue depending on far away the musicians must be from the spectators or passers-by. We would need to ensure the musicians have enough space and that our guests are at a safe distance from the musicians and each other.”
And it’s not only the brewery that is missing the live music, the musicians are as well.
“A few of our past local acts have reached out hoping to perform as soon as we figure out a way for them to do so safely,” she says.
“We had so much fun last summer with bands just hanging out on the patio, playing music and guests singing along. It wouldn’t be quite the same, but it would be so fantastic to bring them back… live music is a great accompaniment to any day on the patio. Whether it’s a sunny summer day and you’re rocking out, or a rainy calm day and your reading a book and swaying to the music. It adds to the entire atmosphere.”
Cruickshank says Algoma Public Health has been extremely supportive throughout the reopening process.
“They came by in person to answer any questions we had, see how we were doing and to provide us with encouragement,” she says. “Any time I have reached out with questions since, they have been fast to get back to me.”
For Cruickshank, she is just happy for OutSpoken to be back, even if it’s to a new normal.
“One thing I have always loved about OutSpoken is that it feels like an escape in the middle of town. Sitting on the patio, drinking a flight of craft beer under a canopy of trees, you feel like you left the Sault and arrived in a big city. We are edgy, fun and chill. We are like [the TV show] ‘Cheers.’ We pride ourselves on remembering our customers and making them feel at home.”