Aly Tomlin and Ralf Rosenke display the social distancing barriers in place at the Riot Brewing Co. lounge. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Starting a Riot experience back at the brewery again

Lounge reopening and potential for patio extension has owners enthusiastic

Riot Brewing Co., by the very nature of its name, is supposed to be all about having fun.

The last couple of years have been anything but for Aly Tomlin and Ralf Rosenke, the owners of the Chemainus brewery, as they overcame financial struggles only to be hit by the untimely COVID-19 blow just as things were looking up. Previous to that, it was the wind storm of December 2018 that cut power in the Chemainus area for several days that left the brewery reeling.

“We can’t get a break,” sighed Tomlin.

The COVID crisis hit where it hurt the most. “We took a huge, huge blow from closing the lounge,” said Tomlin.

Friday, March 13 had just turned out to be a lucky day for Riot, but it all spiralled downward quickly by March 17.

In four short days, Riot went from “our busiest night ever to Tuesday, we’re shut,” Tomlin noted.

They had just hired a sales rep, who was on the road in mid-January to further enhance the scope of their products.

“By mid-March, he was laid off,” Tomlin sighed.

In fact, all the other Riot staff members except one were laid off.

“I maintained sales as best as I could at home,” noted Tomlin.

Monday, June 1 marked another new beginning for the Riot squad. Having been limited to home deliveries for several weeks, the second phase of provincial reopenings has the lounge back in operation with the appropriate social distancing measures taken.

Tomlin and Rosenke couldn’t get plexiglass because it’s been in such high demand for COVID recovery and it’s also expensive, but barriers are in place between tables to keep patrons six feet apart.

“We can move them,” said Tomlin. “If you want a seat for two, we can put little barriers around you.”

The bar is off limits for sitting or customers risk getting a yellow or red card soccer-style from Rosenke for unbecoming behaviour.

“We’re all learning, right,” said Rosenke. “It’s different, seeing people’s comfort levels.”

The lounge is now open seven days a week again, with later hours from noon to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 7 p.m. on Sundays and 2 to 9 p.m. Thursdays. Hours remain at 2 to 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday.

Riot intends to concentrate on stocking its product in liquor stores throughout the region, with restaurants undergoing such drastic reductions in capacity.

The reopening won’t allow Riot to bring back the highly-popular entertainment nights just yet, but they’re hoping that can happen sooner rather than later. “Everything that was so fun and we loved is kind of gone,” said Tomlin.

But they’re optimistic about the reopening to get customers through the door again. Their saving grace could come from an extended patio option. The space is already there and if their application can be fast-tracked as the provincial government has promised, the available seating outside will be far greater – perfect for the time of the year.

Home deliveries will also continue. “The home deliveries give a good option for people who aren’t comfortable,” said Rosenke.

Financial assistance for businesses during the COVID crisis has not benefited Riot. Businesses with significant drops in revenue received subsidies, but Riot went down 12 per cent from bankruptcy.

“We’re 12 per cent worse than we were when we were insolvent,” noted Tomlin.

“We’re not getting the subsidies, we’re not getting the government help.”

Trials and tribulations are nothing new for Tomlin and Rosenke during their Riot Brewing experiences and they don’t give up easily. They’re making the most of the current situation, but not about to dismiss COVID as being conquered just yet.

“We’re bracing for a second wave and who knows what that will bring,” pondered Rosenke.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


Aly Tomlin is happy to have an open door policy back in effect at Riot Brewing Co. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Ralf Rosenke has the yellow and red cards ready to issue for any non-COVID precautionary behaviour in the Riot Brewing lounge. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Comments are closed

Just Posted

North Cowichan partners with province to improve home energy efficiency through rebate program

B.C. government will administer both the new top-up rebate program and provincial rebate program

Extension given for Cowichan region homeless tenting sites

Meeting with BC Housing to determine the next step

Coronavirus limits the right medicine

Opening up the economy a risk with cases overall still not under control

La Petite Auction House makes the switch to retail consignment store

Pricing items becomes the norm over taking in-person bids

Man dies at temporary Duncan tent site for homeless

First Nations man died at The Mound site

13 new B.C. COVID-19 cases, Langley Lodge outbreak ends

Health care outbreaks down to four, 162 cases active

Two injured hikers airlifted from North Vancouver Island Park

Campbell River and Comox Search and Rescue hoist team rescued the injured from Cape Scott Provincial Park

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

A persistent low pressure system over Alberta has led to several days of heavy rain

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

B.C. teacher loses licence after sexual relationships with two recently-graduated students

The teacher won’t be allowed to apply for a teaching certificate until 2035

Lower Mainland teacher facing child pornography charges

Elazar Reshef, 52, has worked in the Delta School District

Most Read