Keeping Hoptimistic: How Abbeydale Brewery are coping with the impact of COVID-19
After making the hugely difficult decision to close its flagship city centre venue The Devonshire Cat, Sheffield institution Abbeydale Brewery is adapting to a newly-shaped landscape when it comes producing some of the city’s favourite beers and running Fulwood community hub The Rising Sun.
As with many businesses associated with the hospitality industry, the closure of pubs and bars back in March meant the brewery had to adapt – namely by expanding their online shop operation and selling direct to the public. Unsurprisingly, with a new canning line containing local favourites such as Moonshine, Heathen and Heresy, the delivery service was a hit.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the support from the public,” Abbeydale Brewery’s Laura Rangeley told us. “The response we’ve had to our online shop has literally enabled staff to keep coming in and kept a smile on our faces. We want people to know how much we value that – but also, we want people to show support by using their local pubs when they reopen.”
With the economic damage a global pandemic brings all too easy to foresee, it became inevitable that some of our pubs wouldn’t be returning. Even so, when the brewery announced that they wouldn’t be reopening The Devonshire Cat – a constant fixture on the city’s drinking scene for almost two decades – the news was met with plenty of shock and sadness from the Sheffield public.
Laura explains it was an incredibly difficult decision for the team at Abbeydale to make, but after taking into account what had been a difficult couple of years of trading for the venue combined with the forced closure and an uncertain future ahead, it made the decision a necessary one for the longer-term survival of the business. Now they are focusing on supporting staff from the closed venue as well as they can, getting production back up at the brewery and preparing their other pub, The Rising Sun, for a safe reopening in July.
She explained the contributing factors behind the closure in a little more detail. “The whole team across the board is absolutely gutted. It’s a place where we from the brewery would head to on a Friday for a good few pints – a fantastic venue and one we will really miss.”
“Being a city centre pub, the overheads for the Devonshire Cat such as its rateable value are really high and meant we weren’t able to benefit from the government grants. Unfortunately, with the way things are at the moment and the city centre being much quieter, we were forced to make that tough decision.”
There is hope on the horizon, though. The brewery took a calculated risk in scaling up production ahead of the announcement announcing the reopening of pubs and restaurants. As such, they are now in a good position to ensure demand can be met for their main products and are now ready to support their pub customers. The Rising Sun will be re-opening on the fourth of July and plans have been drawn up to keep customers and staff safe during opening hours.
“Fingers crossed, we believe that the brewery is in as strong of a position as possible in the current circumstances. We’re also hopeful that The Rising Sun will have a good chance moving forward; it has a good local following and has always been supported by the community. We’ll be utilising its outdoor space and offering a booking system. We’ll have to learn and find out more about what people are looking for, so it’s the kind of the thing all pubs will have to remain flexible with when it comes to moving forward.”