Fund­ing woes de­lay Baie Verte mi­cro­brew­ery pro­duc­tion

Lit­tle North Brew­house forg­ing ahead de­spite re­luc­tance to tap into pri­vate in­vest­ment

The Western Star - - CLOSE TO HOME - NI­CHOLAS MERCER ni­[email protected]­cen­tralvoice.ca

BAIE VERTE, N.L. — The group be­hind the Lit­tle North Brew­house in Baie Verte had planned to be into the pro­duc­tion of their prod­uct by now.

But the group has yet to start ren­o­va­tions needed to bring in the large iron vats needed to brew beer.

It is a prob­lem they at­tribute to es­ti­ma­tions by the At­lantic Canada Op­por­tu­ni­ties Agency and its as­ser­tion the mar­ket for mi­cro­brew­eries in this province is over-sat­u­rated.

“They sent back our ap­pli­ca­tion ... we’ve got noth­ing. They didn’t even as­sess it,” said rep­re­sen­ta­tive Bran­don Philpott. “They didn’t even as­sess it. There were no pros, no cons, no noth­ing.”

He said the agency had called prior to a let­ter be­ing sent in­di­cat­ing the mar­ket was flooded and mi­cro­brew­eries, at least in this province, were not be­ing funded any­more.

Philpott be­lieves ACOA made its de­ci­sion based on the Avalon penin­sula where there is a greater con­cen­tra­tion of brew­eries. Cur­rently, there are eight brew­eries lo­cated on the Avalon and they’re all in rel­a­tive prox­im­ity to each other.

For the rest of the province, there are six brew­eries cur­rently op­er­a­tional from Port Rex­ton to Port au Port East, with an­other four cur­rently in the works in places like Deer Lake, Cor­ner Brook, St. An­thony and Labrador City.

The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has been en­cour­ag­ing mi­cro­brew­ery growth. In 2018, it an­nounced a 40 per cent dis­count on prod­ucts they sell in re­tail out­lets. That dis­count jumps to 50 per cent should it be sold in a brew­ery, win­ery or tap­room.

The Baie Verte group has up­wards of 30 let­ters of sup­port from gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and other brew­eries in the province.

The ACOA de­ci­sion has left the group at a stand­still and put their plans a year be­hind. The idea was to have fund­ing squared away by now to start ren­o­va­tions and the lay­ing of con­crete needed to sup­port the brew­ing vats.

In­stead, it looks like they will be pushed back to the sum­mer of 2020 at the ear­li­est.

“We’ve missed this con­struc­tion sea­son,” said Philpott.

SaltWire Net­work con­tacted ACOA hop­ing to speak with some­one about the ap­pli­ca­tion but that re­quest was de­clined.

A spokesman said the agency does not “com­ment on the specifics of clients or of ap­pli­ca­tions which may or may not be in our sys­tem.”

Philpott has filed an ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion re­quest in hopes of as­cer­tain­ing why the ap­pli­ca­tion was de­nied.

While he is in­volved in the Baie Verte brew­ery, Philpott is also the town’s mayor. Wear­ing that hat, he sees the eco­nomic spinoff a brew­ery could mean for his town and area as whole.

He points to suc­cesses like Port Rex­ton and Twill­ingate as suc­cess­ful ven­tures in beer tourism, and pos­si­bly be­ing the only brew­ery be­tween Twill­ingate and Cor­mack could mean more eco­nomic pros­per­ity.

“A brew­ery was rec­om­mended for the area by an eco­nomic ac­tion plan,” said Philpott.

Is­sues with ACOA’s rea­son­ing be­hind the de­nial not­with­stand­ing, the spinoff from that de­ci­sion is also hurt­ing the Lit­tle North ef­forts.

Other fund­ing agen­cies are wait­ing to see what ACOA does be­fore of­fer­ing as­sis­tance for the pro­posed Baie Verte brew­ery.

That has turned the group to­ward pri­vate in­vest­ment, an ap­proach they didn't want to take at the out­set of the ven­ture.

Still, the group is stead­fast in its de­sire to bring a mi­cro­brew­ery to the area.

“We are still push­ing through with this,” said Philpott.

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