This has been a challenging year for Barsideous Brewing, but the Lebanon microbrewery learned some valuable lessons as it battled to survive the pandemic.
“Closing down gave us an opportunity to reflect and check. What are the things we did well? What are the things we needed to correct? And now we have an opportunity, because we are shut, to make those adjustments and come back fresh,” said Bill Bartman, one of the four co-founders of the business.
Looking back, Bartman says Barsideous Brewing got off to a great start this year.
“We actually were doing very well the first of the year in January, February, March and we were thinking, ‘Oh wow, we’re starting to make money. Something’s going right,’” Bartman said. “And then the COVID thing in the middle of March just wiped out all the extra we had made.”
Over the next few months, the owners had to make a series of difficult decisions. After the initial shutdown, they reopened for take-out with very limited hours and offering no food, only beverages.
After the public safety rules relaxed a bit more in July, they reopened their kitchen, but immediately ran into problems. Bartman said some items which had been on the menu were impossible to source and there were other issues with their suppliers.
“With shipping, everything takes longer and is not as predictable,” Bartman said.
This forced the ownership team to scale back the menu. It turned out that for them, less really was more.
“That’s worked for us really well,” Bartman said of the limited menu. “Two of the partners really wanted this to be a restaurant with beer and two of us wanted it to be a brewpub with food and what we’ve learned and we all agree is, it’s a brewpub with food.”
Barsideous Brewing has also worked to find new distribution options for its craft beers. The brewery is now canning beer for sale at the North Albany IGA. Customers can also order brews made by Barsideous at three locations in Salem: the West Side Tap House, The Night Deposit Whiskey Library, and Barrel & Keg.
Branching out helped the company find stability during the hardest part of the pandemic and Bartman and his partners now feel much more confident that Barsideous Brewing will not only survive the pandemic, but will emerge as a better version of itself.
The brewpub has expanded its hours and is now open from 3 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Bartman said there has been a lot of interest in extending the hours on Sunday evening, and that may happen fairly soon.
The other short-term goal is to bring back live music on the stage at the back of the business.
“There are a lot of musicians out of work that are just looking for a place to play,” Bartman said.
If they do offer live entertainment, Bartman said they will follow the model set up by the Lebanon Downtown Association for its concerts this summer at Strawberry Plaza. Attendance will be limited and reservations will be required so they can arrange the space to maintain social distance.
In September, Barsideous Brewing pledged to donate a percentage of its beer sales to the fire relief effort. Bartman said customers did a great job supporting the pledge and on Thursday, he presented a check for $400 to the Lebanon Fire Community Assistance and Initial Relief Service (LFCAIRS).
Lebanon Fire Chief Joseph Rodondi and Lt. Russell Duerr, who leads LFCAIRS, visited Barsideous to receive the donation.
“We’ve had a recent uptick in generous donations from community members. We’ve already donated $900, strictly from donations, to the Santiam Canyon Relief Fund,” Duerr said.
In addition to providing immediate assistance to families who have lost their homes to fire, LFCAIRS also supports a local bicycle helmet program and the life-jacket kiosks which have been set up around Lebanon.
Bartman thanked the patrons who supported the drive and was grateful that Barsideous Brewing is able to make this donation after a very difficult few months.
“It just feels so good to be able to do something even though it’s after the fact,” Bartman said.
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