Just one year after opening as as a gay-owned brewpup and taproom, D.C.’s Red Bear Brewing Co. was temporarily forced to retool its business model practically overnight as a result of the COVID-19 mandated citywide closure of all bars and restaurants.
Over the past week, the nanobrewery in NoMa has become a takeout service focused on selling Growler Fills of its original brews, including its new Woof line of hard seltzer in flavors of tangerine and prickly pear, plus pre-mixed cocktails in to-go cups, bottles of spirits, even Taste the Rainbow Jell-O Shots, along with burgers, wings, and other popular food items from the kitchen.
Red Bear has launched an online store selling branded merchandise ranging from clothing to glassware to a bear plushie of the venue’s mascot, Ursula. The brewery plans to start delivering food and brews by the growler-full to customers within a two-mile radius.
And the once-thriving site for drag shows and game nights has also started experimenting with virtual, interactive versions of such events.
Meanwhile, tips and donations made to the @redbearbrewing account on Venmo are applied to an emergency fund set up to support Red Bear’s furloughed employees.
“We definitely took a hit,” says Bryan Van Den Oever, one of the company’s co-founders. “We’re probably at about 20- to 30-percent of normal sales. And unfortunately we’ve had to lay off a majority of our staff, so we’re as skeleton crew as possible. We’re doing what we can to survive, and we can’t wait for the D.C. and the federal governments to determine how they’re going to help out small businesses like us.”
Red Bear Brewing is currently open from 4 to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. Call 202-849-6130 or visit www.redbear.beer for full up-to-date information.
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