Since we’ve been talking about Howard County, MD, I thought I’d share some insights I gathered during a recent interview with Hysteria Brewing Co., located in Columbia, MD.
First and foremost, I didn’t realize what an investment it is to open a taproom like the one they have on a small industrial strip on Berger Road. My suggestion would be to run the numbers and make sure you have enough investment to support the opening before you even think about it. Additionally, if you want to open a taproom like that, it seems you need to have your space ready for business (or at least close to it) before you make your alcoholic beverage license application. To my earlier points, I think you’d better be sure you’ll be granted a license before you start down that path.
The second thing I learned is that it is very important to know what the demand is going to be for your product. I’m not certain on how you can know that for sure, and I don’t want to spoil the story the owners told me during the interview, but I think you at least have to know the geographic distribution of your direct competitors and the population density of your area compared to the others. I’ll dare say that the demand for good beer is everywhere, but maybe that’s just my own siloed view. In any event, you want to meet your demand!
An even better story I heard that day suggests that it’s a very good idea to understand who your “partners” are when it comes to keeping your business running smoothly. The obvious player might be your equipment and ingredient suppliers but think about who else you need in terms of infrastructure. You need water, electric and most likely natural gas supply to keep things moving, and you need to know how the responsibilities for smooth operations are allocated among you, your utility suppliers, and (oh yes): your landlord!
I know I mentioned before there are residency requirements among the owners of such an establishment, and I think I mentioned that you’ll need some local voters to vouch for you. The good news is that the more I get to know people who have succeeded in this business the more it seems like people really like having a local place like a taproom they can access as a hangout. There are probably some places where the people don’t want such establishments present, but that seems representative of a minority from what I’ve observed.
The last thing I’ll say is I learned a little more about the importance of ambiance in places where you want people to feel at home. It seems easy enough to create, right? But there are details that go into having a look and feel that is unique to your establishment, and that look and feel have to be consistent with and support your brand.
Finally, what’s in a name? I don’t know, but have a story.
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Scott Lloyd is a registered patent attorney who specializes in intellectual property counseling and commercialization work. He has served as a technology commercialization specialist and advisor to companies in a diverse array of markets, including biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, food and beverage, specialty chemicals, technology, and engineering. In addition, Mr. Lloyd spent ten years as in-house general counsel to small and mid-sized companies, where he managed corporate matters and resolved commercial disputes in addition to intellectual property strategy, and now serves in the same capacity for entrepreneurial clients. He serves as counsel to small and mid-sized business owners seeking to implement growth strategies and succession plans.
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