East Vancouver brewery forced to close after rising operating costs

After 10 years in business, East Vancouver’s Callister Brewing is closing because of the rising cost of rent.

After 10 years in business, an East Vancouver brewery is closing its doors, citing rising costs.

Chris Lay, co-founder of Callister Brewing, says they will not be renewing their five-year lease after their landlord increased the rent by almost 45 per cent.

“That’s a considerable increase,” he said. “It represents thousands of dollars a month, tens of thousands of dollars per year. Across the city and across the country, we’ve seen rents go up considerably, and unfortunately, we are not immune to that.”

Lay says they’ve been looking for a new place, but they haven’t had any luck so far.

“The reality is, even if we go out further from Vancouver, we aren’t seeing better rent,” he said. “The Metro Vancouver area is very similar.”

On top of the increase in operation costs, Lay says there has also been a considerable shift in consumer behaviour.

“With not really an increasing number of consumers, those consumers are making different choices with what they want to spend their hard-earned dollars on,” he said. “We are seeing a bit of downturn together.”

Ken Beattie, the executive director of the BC Craft Brewers Guild, says consumer spending has gone down. While he says this is understandable given the current affordability crisis, he encourages consumers to still support small local businesses to keep them from going under.

“We thought there would be a rebound after COVID,” Beattie said. “We thought there would be a pent-up demand.”

Lay says there are more than a dozen breweries within walking distance of his location in East Vancouver, and since the pandemic, they just haven’t seen the same level of foot traffic in the tasting rooom, making the business unsustainable.

“It is so difficult now with cash flow,” Lay said. “We see it at the grocery store, and all the inputs in craft beer have gone through the roof.”

Lay says he doesn’t think it’s the end of craft beer, but he thinks there is going to be an adjustment in 2024.

“The pandemic was a big shift for us on changing our focus on the business, how we operated, and changing over from a tasting room focus to distribution and wholesale,” he said.

He says he wants to focus on expanding the company’s soda line, which has seen a wholesale increase of about 50 per cent.

“Five to six years ago, this wasn’t an option,” he said. “You couldn’t go out and find a beautifully crafted local soft drink. It didn’t exist.”

Callister Brewing’s tasting room is permanently closing at the end of this year.

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