Tag Archives: Lease

The Damn Electrical Nightmare that is our Space

Just when you think all is well, and you are about to move onto making things work and realizing your dream, something comes up that threatens to derail all that we have worked for …. for the time being.  We have recently discovered that we don’t have enough power to our space.  We thought that 400 amps was going to be enough, but it appears that we will need more than this.  What does this mean to our ability to lease this space?  What does this mean to my dream?

The process of leasing a space is filled with many potholes and roadblocks.  Finding a space in the right location, with the right layout, at the right price, with a landlord that wants a brewery in their space, for the right amount of term, in a city with limited quantity and quality of commercial space is not unlike finding a 4 leaf clover:  Tough on the best of days.

We really thought we had found the right space for our project.  We found a commercial space that is located exactly where want to be, with the perfect amount of space for our operations, a decent rate, with an amazing landlord, who would like us to be there for up to 20 years.  It felt really good to find this space.  We negotiated a lease for the better part of 4 months, and finally came to an agreement on terms about 4 months ago.  Our agreement allowed us a 3 month period that we could apply for a DP, and carry out some due diligence on how this space would work for us.

Our first hurdle was to apply for a Development Permit, which we have successfully done.  Though we haven’t officially heard back from the City of Vancouver on the outcome, we don’t see any reason why we can’t move ahead.  Our second hurdle was the floors.  Oh yes, the floors.  Essentially, the substrate of our floors was subsiding, which means that our floor is dropping and dropping.  Like all problems, you can fix anything if you throw enough money at it.  We had some contingency in our retrofit budget , so we figured that we could overcome the flooring problem with more money.  About $30,000 to be exact.

Well we just came across our third hurdle, and it is a little bigger of a nut than our second.  We thought we were free and clear with the electrical in the building.  We have 400 amps available, and we always thought it would be enough for our needs.  In the past week it has become apparent we need at least 500 amps and preferably 600 amps.  It would be simple to say why the hell didn’t you know that 400 amps was insufficient?  The problem is until you make choices on your space, you don’t know what your exact load is going to be.  Draws on power are HVAC, Refrigeration, Tasting Room, Offices, Kitchen, etc.  The problem is that we made assumptions for this power based on a 6,000 sq ft space.  Now that we are entertaining a space about 9,000 sq ft, you can basically multiply all your power needs by about 1.5.  You can see how we ended up here.

OK, so no problem for a power upgrade but just running more power to the building from the pole out back!  Wrong.  The power poles that supply our building already have 3 transformers on the pole, which means that this pole is maxed out.  Crap.  This leaves our option to get additional power either putting in a Pad Mounted Transformer for about $120,000 or putting one on the roof of the building for even more.  What the F#$%!  This absolutely blows.  So now, after all the time and work (never mind money) we have put into this space, it looks like we are about to walk away.  While we would like to make this space work, we just can’t afford an extra $120,000 bill.  We might be out about $30,000 so far, but it is worth it to lose this money in order to not lose our shirts down the road.

So we now have a huge decision to make!  Option A is to drop another $120,000 and push ahead with this space, realizing our dream.  Amortizing $120,000 over 20 years is only $6,000 per year, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t that much.  Option B is to walk away and find a space without the number and cost of upgrades this space needs.  We would go into this process knowing full well that it could be another 6 months before we find another space that works really well for us.

We have another 2 weeks to make our decision, before the subject period on our lease expires. In other words, our landlord will want us to piss or get off the pot with regards to his space in 14 days.  Looks like there will be a lot of sleepless nights coming up.  If you have any advice for us, please contact me to pass it along.  It would be greatly appreciated.  Until next time …..

Everything rests on the floors … Literally!

When you start out with the dream of opening a brewery, there are a bunch of things that you dream about.  For instance; where you are going to brew your beer, what your brand will look like, how good it will to be your own boss, and most importantly what kind of beer you are going to brew.  Further down the list, you think about other details like cans vs bottles, unitanks vs fermenting & conditioning tanks, or what kind of delivery truck you are going to have.  Then there is a bunch of items that you generally don’t give much thought to:  When to have your fiscal year-end, do you want your coasters to be printed on one side or both, and who your accountant is going to be.

Even further below this is flooring, one of the things you tend to not think about at any stage of starting a brewery, other than when you are looking at warehouses to lease.  Well you probably guessed it, we are at that time and place now.  We have submitted an offer on a space to lease, and we are currently negotiating back and forth with the landlord.  We are hopeful that things are going to move ahead, so we have really started to focus on the details about this space.  Important considerations when you think about having a lease for 10 years.

You see, a floor in a warehouse is nothing like a floor in a house …. which is the only real reference point I have for this kind of thing.  A floor in a house is usually flat, and if it isn’t, you make it flat, put in the flooring and underlay of your choice and voila!  A floor in a warehouse is a much different beast.  Most importantly, the floor in a warehouse needs to take a load.  The floors usually have a PSI rating, and that determines how much of a load you can put on the floor.  In other words, a higher PSI rating for a floor is a good thing in the world of brewing, as you are putting several metric tonnes of tanks and other equipment onto it.

Well the floors in the warehouse that we want to lease aren’t the greatest.  They have settled in several areas, and they don’t have a high enough of a PSI rating.  This means we are going to have to fix this problem if we lease the space, and that costs a lot of ‘jack’.  The most important question we have to ask is why have the floors settled?  There are 3 possible reasons for this:  1) The preparation for the floor was done poorly in the first place.  2) There was organic material left in the ground (like old trees and roots), and they have wasted away to nothing causing the floor to settle  3) There is some problem that is slowly washing away the substrate leaving a nothing where there was once material.

Well this is the point that we are at now.  Do we move forward with the space, knowing that the bill for the floors could be somewhere from $50,000 to $200,000 (and by the way we only have $75,000 in our budget), or do we say everything else seems really good about this space, but the floors are too much of a question mark, so we walk away.  This is the question that we are faced with this week.  It is both an emotional decision for me (I love the space and want to get this brewery off the ground) and also a business decision (I have to do what is right for my investors).

I am hopeful that we have the wisdom and support from engineers and other professionals to make the right decision.  As you can tell, the road to starting a brewery is full of pot holes and hazards.  But if you can successfully navigate those things, then the reward is greater than most anything else in the world.