“My family was in the elevator business, so I took over the business and I ran that for about seven years. A couple of years ago I retired and I was looking for something else to do. I got a call from my business partner and he was talking about this brewery idea. I started doing some research and looking at the business models and it really intrigued me.

“We opened in February of 2017, so we’re a little over two years old.

“We did our best to reach out to the community and build this place using as much local resources as we could. A lot of that work has paid off. Elmhurst has been really great embracing us and we quickly became a facet here in the community.

“Public safety is first and foremost. Fortunately for us, we have the outside and inside, so the nice thing is, whatever rules they put in place, we can physically spread people out. We can work on keeping people away [from each other] and keeping them happy.

“People really have been making an effort to come out and support us. People come here on a regular basis just to support us and buy whatever they can. You can see that they’re making an effort and that’s helped. But by the same token, we’ve got a 6,000-square-foot facility here and probably about 4,500 square feet is not getting utilized right now.

“Our sales are down about 40%, which is actually fantastic. A couple of months ago, if someone had said we could reduce our hours and just do pickup and takeout and still be at 60%, I’d been very surprised.

“One of the biggest supply problems we have had is takeout material. As you can imagine, every brewery in the country is now takeout. Getting the containers has been nothing short of a challenge.

“We went to glass growlers without our logo, and then the glass ones ran short so we went to plastic ones. Basically anything we can try to get the beer into.

“What we’re selling is very different. Instead of providing one beer in a glass for about $6 or $7, now I have to put four in a can, label the cans, package the cans, and now we’re selling them for close to $12, so the margins on the beer are much lower than they would be. As much as our revenue is not down as I originally predicted, our product mix has changed and not for the better. It’s really hurting the profitability of the company right now.

“I’ve always found that businesses are generally pretty good about regulating themselves. Most businesses are trying to make sure that they are safe and producing a good product. If you start getting a reputation as a place that doesn’t have the public safety and health first and foremost on your mind, people notice.

“I’m most concerned about time. We don’t exactly know when we’re going to open and how that’s going to look.

“We participated in the Paycheck Payment Program, but the truth is, we don’t know how much that’s going to be forgivable. The check that we received, that’s either going to go on the debt side, but in a couple months from now, it may go on the credit side.

“I have a number of employees who are very financially dependent on this place and they’re getting impacted. In the restaurant industry, the majority of my staff is tip based. As much as I can take PPP money and make their paychecks, the paychecks are not the reason they come into work every day. It’s definitely those tips and those paychecks become a very small percentage of their income. They’re in trouble. The tips aren’t the same on the carryout side as they are on the dine-in side.

“It’s really hard to put a new budget together and say this is where we’re going to end up. We know we can’t keep going like this for a long period of time.

“Illinois restaurants comprise a large portion of small business owners. I would love to see something more tailor-made toward them and their needs. … We are unique in a lot of ways and it is hard to be grouped in with a lot of other businesses and some of those needs aren’t really being met. We are financially in trouble, so if there is something the government can do, [like] look at putting together a financial program to assist the restaurants to get through this, because we’re getting hit very badly.

“I’m really concerned about consumer behavior changes. I know as soon as there’s a date set on the calendar that says you can go to restaurants, I know there’s going to be a big percentage of people who are still going to be leery of it. I don’t know if we’re going to see the same consumer behavior and revenue.”

Pete Dolan
Co-owner, Elmhurst Brewing Co.
Elmhurst, Illinois