The statewide shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic has forced a lot of breweries to reconsider how they are set up. Red Door is one of those, as operations manager Ali Cattin told me from 6 feet away at the Candelaria taproom before they opened last Friday.
“Matt’s been furiously applying for all sorts of aid,” she said of owner Matt Biggs. “It’s looking pretty good, it’s looking like we might be able to get some. When that comes through, we’ve discussed kind of shifting our business model to insulate us against any further issues, like if this flares up again in the fall, if we have to go on partial lockdown (again). Just until there’s a vaccine there’s a possibility of this happening over and over again.
“What we found was that Total Wine was going through 20 cases of Vanilla Cream and (Irish) Red a week. With that shut down, we first thought it was going to affect us. But now, Smith’s picked us up on both of our SKUs. We’ve got grocery stores and convenience stores. We’re in all the Albertsons. So that’s exploded. They canned 500 cases a week ago and then Premier just asked us for more. We held some back for the taprooms, but I’m running through that here and Clovis is running through their stock. We’re probably going to invest in doing more canning.”
That will include adding a third canned offering, West Coast IPA, to go with Vanilla Cream and Irish Red.
“We’re going to switch our model to that, and kind of get away from taproom heavy,” Ali said. “It looks like the chance to expand and survive in the New Mexico market right now is going to be through distribution. Having the restaurants closed hurt. It took our keg sales down to zero. The only thing going out the door right now is cans.”
As for the four Red Door taprooms, only Candelaria and Clovis have been open for to-go orders. That will change for one other spot soon, while the fourth location will not be coming back.
“We’ve been doing some work downtown while it’s been closed,” Ali said. “The manager, Dustin, is getting ready to reopen down there with a similar to-go model. We’ll be bringing the kitchen staff back in with a limited menu. We’re trying to get that up and running because we’re hoping in mid-May that we’ll be open at 50 percent. We want to get everyone in and back up to speed and it looks like about a week before we can do the reopening.
“When the order came down to shut down, we didn’t see the point in having two Albuquerque taprooms open, so we shut down Downtown. We gave away all of the perishable food, just took it over to Roadrunner (Food Bank). We need to reorder, get our inventory back up, and get those guys back in the kitchen and making food.”
Further away, the news is not as good.
“So, Roswell, we were at the point where we needed to sign another lease or given up on the location,” Ali said. “We informed the staff last week and went down there and cleared it out. We decided not to reopen that location. It’s really disappointing. We were finally getting a foothold in the community, building regulars. Given this, and trying to consolidate and cut costs anywhere we can … that’s really disappointing. But, I think in the long term it’s going to be best for us moving forward.”
Clovis, at least, has stayed above water.
“Clovis is still going with its current model,” Ali said. “A couple weeks ago they expanded their hours a little bit. They’re still closed on Sunday, because in Curry County you can’t do package sales on Sunday. We’re like, we can only do food? That would be confusing and disappointing (to our customers) with no growlers on Sunday. THey’re 12 to 9 on Saturday and 3 to 9 Monday through Friday. They’re ready to reopen. They’re bored and their county didn’t get hit very hard. They’re still blowing through beer. Sales are 25 percent of what they were when we were fully open, but they still outsell here (Candelaria) for beer.”
The Candelaria has continued with one popular special beer program.
“The paletas are doing great,” Ali said. “They’re pretty, so they get a lot of attention on social media. We initially did a 7-barrel kettle sour batch of it. With the emptiness in the brewery right now, usually Matt has to put a message out on Slack, there’s a CO2 line there, nobody touch it, don’t trip over it. We don’t have to worry right now. There’s another batch already in the fermenters ready to go, or basically it’s a double Berliner Weisse. We’re still on the original 7-barrel batch, we figured it would get us through 14 weeks, maybe 15. We’re still going with that, it’s been successful.”
Ali has also pushed for a crowler machine at Candelaria, but added, “Biggs is pushing not to spend any money.”
The Candelaria location is also expanding to seven days a week, with sales running from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. That has enabled Ali to bring back a couple of the taproom employees to help lighten her load.
Red Door has also continued with allowing customers to bring in their own growlers.
“We would have been out of growlers weeks ago if we didn’t take growlers back,” Ali said. “People are putting growlers in the quarantine bucket, and at the end of the day I put gloves on and a mask on, and I was them all. We do a wash, a rinse, a sanitizing and then a second sanitizing with iodine, the same concentration we use in the brewery. It seemed like a bad time to gouge people with an extra $4 and drive down my only way of getting beer out the door on all but two of our styles.”
Another change coming soon will be having more food options at Candelaria.
“With the equipment that we brought back from Roswell, we’ve got everything we need to do here for a small food program where we use Downtown as a small commissary,” Ali said. “Downtown will basically prep sandwiches every day. We’ll do paninis and limited sides. The chef downtown, his name is Adam, and he’s just awesome. He has great ideas. When we open back up, you’ve got to go check out brunch down there. It’s just killer.”
The types of sandwiches will likely rotate to keep things fresh, she added.
Overall, while it is sad news to hear that the Roswell taproom has closed, things are still managing to look up for Red Door during these difficult times. If anyone wants, stop by for some fresh Mic Czech Pilsner, or you can just wait until the next in the paletas series arrives on Friday.
A big thanks to Ali for the update.
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