Throughout B.C. this year, there will be roughly 30 new craft breweries opening, estimates Chris Lay, the co-founder and head brewer of East Vancouver’s Callister Brewing. Of those, only one will be opening in the City of Vancouver.“I think that’s really telling,” Lay says.Callister Brewing launched about five years ago in an industrial corner of East Vancouver mostly comprised of warehouses, machine shops and other elbow-grease businesses. Today, the area is also home to 15 breweries, a few craft distilleries, cafes and other creative businesses.Overall, the big city craft beer business continues to thrive, but times are tougher, say Lay and Aaron Jonckheere, who is the the co-owner of another nearby brewery called Strange Fellows. Property taxes have ballooned, leases are turning over and rising and speculators and developers are making their move on a neighbourhood that’s now considered cool.Lay and Jonckheere recently looked back on their first five years in their respective businesses and shared their most important challenges, insights and advice.In commercial leases, you pay for everythingWith a commercial lease, the business owner pays for everything in addition to the lease, Jonckheere said. That means you’re out of pocket for building improvements, utilities — and, perhaps most notably, the property tax.“Our property taxes have nearly doubled in five years,” he said.Lay said their property tax at Callister surged by nearly 45 per cent in the past five years. They just renegotiated their lease for a second five-year term and the rate climbed by 50 per cent. “It’s causing some grief,” he said.Paying a premium to be part of the critical massJonckheere and his partner opted for a building close to the action of the emerging East Van brewery cluster. That meant helping to create — and eventually benefit from — a critical mass of customers who could walk or bike from brewery to brewery. It also meant being close to suppliers, commercial customers, other brewers and their own homes.If you run out of growlers or lids or a particular culture of yeast, it’s likely your neighbour can help you, he said. “We’re all in this together.”
Strange Fellows Brewing is located on Clark Drive in East Vancouver.
Olga Zwart /
See others as teammates, not competitorsCallister Brewing opened five years ago with a unique business model of including other start-up brewers at their site to help home brewers cut their teeth in commercial brewing. Callister welcomes a new brewer every July.“Not many of them have actually found their own spaces yet,” Lay said. But he said a couple of brands “have been killing it,” including Superflux Beer Company and Boombox Brewing, which are now operating out of other nearby breweries with their sights set on their own bricks and mortar locations.Consider leaving the big city“Find an underserved community that will support you and will make it easier for you to actually do business there,” Lay said.“That’s where we’re seeing most of the growth in B.C. right now,” he said. “In 2019, it is predicted there will be 30 new breweries opening in the province. Exactly one of those is in the City of Vancouver.”He said Vancouver suburbs like the North Shore and other cities on Vancouver Island and the Kootenays are typically more affordable and are usually eager to help small businesses to thrive, especially in the popular craft beer industry.“These are communities that are actually reaching out to small business and saying ‘Hey, what can we actually do to make this work.’”email@example.com/EvanBDugganRelated