An entrepreneur planning to open what would be Sidney’s second downtown brewery with an attached lounge said the business will be respectful of its immediate surroundings and the community-at-large.
“Although I understand some residents’ concerns around the unknown, our business is not one that is going to go against the fabric of Sidney,” said Chris Bjerrisgaard, who plans to open Small Gods Brewery with his partner Sierra Skye Gemma in the Oceanna residential complex on Third Street, on the old fire hall site. “We have really designed this to be a member of the community today and tomorrow. That is why we have designed this to be a literary-themed brewery.”
Bjerrisgaard spoke after Sidney council voted unanimously to send a message of support for the 165-seat brewery to the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB), which has approving authority. Council also passed a resolution calling for the business to pay $40,000 in lieu of four employee parking spots the owners now wish to use for production purposes.
Council’s statement of support and approval of the requested variance came amid an uptick in public opposition to the proposal. Bjerrisgaard partly blamed Canada Post for what he called its failure to deliver the necessary public notifications.
“Normally, public consultation would take two weeks, but due to the issues with Canada Post and summer council scheduling, this process has gone on four times longer, an extremely long time for negative voices to rally against something they don’t like,” he said.
Much of the opposition – it accounted for roughly four per cent of the 540-plus notices that went out – focused not on the business and its requested variance, but on issues not up for debate such as parking, zoning and noise, Bjerrisgaard added.
During his public presentation to council earlier this month, he laid out some scenarios.
“Will people be talking on the patio? Yes. Will people be drunkenly yelling on our patio? No, as we will be subject to the same (laws) as other establishments in this location, as this space was designed to host a hospitality business.”
Ultimately, Bjerrisgaard and Gemma plan to move to the Saanich Peninsula. For now, the focus lies on getting their business ready for a planned opening in April 2022, a timeframe that remains realistic despite the procedural delay.
Counting a business loan of $850,000 and a personal investment of $500,000 with a potential need for more gap funding, the couple has invested no small amount of money in Sidney. Bjerrisgaard said they chose Sidney for a number of reasons, including a personal affinity for the Peninsula, but also its status as one of the most under-served regions for breweries in B.C.
“It’s not the best location per-capita in terms of (being) under-serviced, but it is the one where me and my wife would want to live,” he said, pointing to Gemma’s literary background. “It was both strategic and a cultural thing.”
As for the downtown location, Bjerrisgaard said it offers what commercial locations elsewhere in the area could not offer: foot traffic. “You are much better off being in a downtown core than in an industrial park,” he said.
As for the business’ proximity to Beacon Brewery, he said the two offer different experiences, with Beacon Brewery classified as nano-brewery with limited food options. Ultimately, Bjerrisgaard predicts both will benefit from each other’s presence.
“Between us and the distillery, we’ve got a unique draw that is not just a single thing.”
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