Despite the challenging times facing the restaurant and tourism industry, the backers of a proposed brew pub and cidery for Lunenburg's waterfront have decided to proceed with the project.
"If you look at the rate and speed of cancellations of events, clearly there is some residual doubt about the future in some people's minds. So the notion that we should perhaps delay was on the table of course," said George Anderson, the president of Lightship Beer and Cider.
Anderson is one of the founders of the Mahone Bay Brewing Company, which owns two other brew pubs - Saltbox in Mahone Bay and King Street Beer in Bridgewater. The company announced in January it would be building the 5,000 square foot brew pub and cidery in Lunenburg, called Lightship Point, and that it expected the facility would open in May or June.
Although virtually no restaurants or pubs have been offering eat-in dining or drinking during the state of emergency, and the local tourism industry is facing a greatly curtailed if not bleak summer season, Anderson said he and his partners preferred to be optimistic.
"I think because we believed that this world that we're now living in will not last forever; and that we have confidence that things will return to a more normal situation in Lunenburg County. That ultimately the tourists will return, and that some day this will be a distant memory. And then, when it is, we want to be ready," Anderson explained of the reasons the company opted to proceed with the construction sooner rather than later.
"There's no point in saying, 'Oh, everything's back to normal now; let's start construction.' Then you will have missed out on the turn. Starting early like this, and finishing this summer, means that we should get some of the summer business and it will give us an opportunity to, you know, see that our operations work well and to work out the kinks," he told LighthouseNOW.
"We have the money; there's no percentage in waiting. And, you know, it's a statement, I suppose, of faith in the future, in some ways. And these days, it looks like people need that," Anderson added.
The brew pub and cidery is planned for the furthest point out into the Lunenburg harbour on vacant land owned by ABCO Industries Inc. on Tanner Road.
The aim is to be a specialized European bottled beer and cider company. "We're bringing to Lunenburg an old-fashioned method of brewing called foeder brewing, or barrel and barrel-aged brewing," Anderson explained to LighthouseNOW in January."Basically, it's brewing in large wooden barrels. It gives a more authentic, European character to the beers that are produced."
He suggested that the founders of Mahone Bay Brewing Company - himself and his wife, Jane McLoughlin-Anderson, Patrick Jardine and Andrew Tanner - have long since been interested in the technique. "But we had to wait until we felt confident to take this on because it's a little more difficult way of brewing."
The plan builds upon the company's intention to have distinctive operations in the three Lunenburg County towns. Saltbox brews and sells a range of branded beers and is the production engine of the company. It also produces cider in a standard way. King Street Beer brews LaHave River Beers, which are those brewed by qualified local brewers from the LaHave River area.
Partner Jardine described the Lunenburg facility as a collection of buildings surrounding a court yard, including a main building with a taproom and brewery of about 1,500 sq. ft., another smaller storage building with washrooms, a seasonal outdoor building for caterers and a small gazebo. The patio will be about 3,000 sq. feet.
The design theme is that of a small fishing village.
According to Anderson, the Town of Lunenburg's planning department has been supportive of the project.
"You hear a lot of complaint about Lunenburg Planning and so on, but we had exceptional cooperation."
However, he suggested there was a lot of give on take on both sides.
"We said whatever conditions you want to put on the look or the finish of the building, we'll comply." In any case, the development wasn't anything extraordinary under the zoning regulations, according to Anderson.
The company expected that construction would begin within weeks, and it didn't see the state of emergency impacting that, since the construction industry has been allowed to carry on throughout the pandemic, albeit with social distancing regulations.
"The contractor we're talking too seems quite confident he can work on the site without hindrance," said Anderson.
Meanwhile, the company is starting to take " baby steps" to reestablish retail sales at its other locations. The tap rooms themselves will remain closed, however take-away beer sales were expected to resume on April 30, following what Anderson said was a highly successful home delivery program.
"We're slowly making our way back," he said.