Jim Ebel: Two Brothers Brewing
“My brother and I started this business and it was just the two of us. We did everything.
“No one knew what a microbrewery was at that time. There were 200 microbreweries in America, now there are 7,000. But that number is probably going to take a big hit.
“This weekend we just opened up the taphouse here at the brewery for curbside delivery and it was a huge success. The people who have come out here in Warrenville – it’s been a tremendous response. It’s really encouraging to see these communities pull together through this. So often if there’s not something like this going on, people just don’t think about their community that much.
“We just celebrated 23 years in business. Over those 23 years we’ve reinvested really everything we’ve ever made, and we diversified the business by starting the coffee company, distillery and restaurants. We’ve been in Warrenville for 23 years now and we’re the local[s].
“As we’ve grown we’ve taken on people who have become like family. We have many employees over the 10-year mark. For full-time equivalent employees we were probably close to 250 [before COVID-19]. Now we’re at 60. At the distillery we have only one employee, but we’re able to use our license to make hand sanitizer — it’s primarily ethanol, which we can legally produce. The distillery is actually floating our other companies right now. We’re able to keep the lights on. Without it I don’t know where we’d be.
“But we’re not the government. We can’t just print money. For restaurants the margin is so small and it takes so much money to run them. On that side [of the business] we have so many part-time employees who have had trouble getting unemployment benefits.
“Unfortunately that is what’s expected of state government in Illinois. I understand they are overwhelmed, but they’re reactive instead of proactive. The fact that they’re still running computer systems on COBOL. It’s asinine.
“I think I’m pretty moderate [politically]. When it comes to things like universal healthcare I’m a huge proponent. Unfortunately in this state it got so crazy with things like pensions, how do you get out of it?
“We’ve paid into the state unemployment system for 23 years now and I think we have had one claim. I know when this is over, the max unemployment tax is 10%. It’s just unfathomable that we will be able to come up with 10% of payroll.
“I don’t think Illinois really knows what a small business is. It’s not a business-friendly state. When we opened our businesses in Arizona we had the mayor of Scottsdale calling us. We had the state calling us. It was just crazy. Here, nobody answers the phone and you leave a message and never hear back. They feel they’re doing us the favor in Illinois.
“Everybody that’s in the state legislature should be thinking: ‘It’s not too late to start planning.’ Our brewer’s association found 46% of breweries say they will permanently close in three months. The National Restaurant Association says 75% of independent restaurants may permanently close.
“The planning needs to be: How are we going to reopen soon, but safely? And how can the state encourage out-of-the-box thinking to promote businesses in our community with so many people in need.”
Co-founder, Two Brothers
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