MILFORD, CT — In 2018, Milford Point Brewing Company became the city's first local brewery and by 2019 it had undertaken a successful expansion project. In February 2020, the small brewery had its best month from a revenue standpoint and a big private party planned in March.
And then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and you know the rest of the story. Untold businesses across the globe have been greatly impacted by the pandemic and Chris Willett and Jerry Candido, who are co-owners of Milford Point Brewing Company, are no different.
Since the pandemic, revenues are down 60 percent and there have been times when Willett thought about throwing in the towel, but the brewery has persevered and is trying to pivot now in order to stay afloat.
Since November, the business has been closed except for the sale of pickup orders on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at the 230 Woodmont Road brewery. The newly created outdoor seating which proved to be successful in the summer became irrelevant due to the cold weather. The 80-person capacity taproom is closed because the business doesn't prepare food on site, which is a mandate during the pandemic.
The co-owners decided they needed to change course and are increasing manufacturing of its local brews and selling them in cans to liquor stores. It won't make up for the loss of business at the brewery, but it will hopefully keep the business operational until the pandemic ends, Willett said.
All of their beers feature Milford names, i.e. Silver Sands, Pond Point, West Shore, Devon Wheat, Settlers Stout, and Anchor Beach to name a few. Cans are available on a first-come, first-served basis on Thursdays and Fridays from 5-7 p.m. and 1-3 p.m. on Saturdays at 230 Woodmont Road.
Cans are also available at Total Wine & More, Wines & More in Milford and the New England Beverage Co. in Orange, next to Trader Joe’s. In January, they'll also be selling more into Fairfield and Hartford County stores.
photo by Brian McCready/Patch
In March, the business closed for a short time but reopened in April. Business began to pick up this summer after the city allowed them to add outdoor seating, but the business largely went away once November hit.
The brewery is trying to keep going by offering curbside pickup on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and increasing the sale of its beer to liquor stores in Connecticut.
They hope to find a way to serve food on site in January which would allow for limited capacity in their taproom, Willett said.
Prior to the pandemic, the business was doing well as it expanded its physical footprint in 2019 and created a full taproom and secured an expanded permit.
"We were rocking," Willett said.
The brewery used to offer comedy shows, live music, private parties, and had people bring their dogs to the brewery on Sundays. None of that is possible now.
Extra costs during a pandemic
As business dropped, costs soared. The business had to pay for extra staff to supervise and ensure people were following the COVID-19 rules. As the number of patrons dwindled they needed to double staff.
Also, they were forced to halt the sale of their popular growlers and use plastic cups, which "stinks for the environment," Willett said.
A double-whammy for the brewery was that it sells its beer to local restaurants, including Bonfire and Jimmy's Apizza, but due to the pandemic there is less demand for draft beers as the business has shifted largely to takeout orders.
Willett said he's very grateful for his "very understanding" landlord, Lou D'Amato and the electric company. "We've been on life support," Willett said, while adding they haven't been able to pay all of their bills.
"We're trying to keep this afloat until things return to normal," Willett said. "I want to keep this going. I feel a duty to the town, the people who like our beer and a lot of locals come to the brewery. We have several Norms (from the television show, Cheers). I'm doing everything I can to keep this afloat."