Where You At?

Chicago Craft Beer Week is over and what a week it was! My favorite part of the whole week was meeting new Panic Alarmist fans and admirers. I've lost count how many people came up and thanked me (I was wearing my Panic T-shirts all week) for sharing so much and offering wonderful words of encouragement at the four events I attended. My wife, Bridget, who isn't usually a big beer festival fan, accepted that beer events would be a part of our lives from now on and joined me for all of them. She really got to see first hand how much all this work I've done has started to pay off and she's more excited than ever to get this brewery up and running. And as usual, people liked my wife more than they liked me. I'm used to it. This is what I hope to be the home to Panic Brewing. There's lots of space, but the other tenants are either a bit insular, pregnant, or dead.

Let me start with the biggest news thus far: I've found a space I'd like to lease. I like it a lot. It's almost perfect. I say it's "almost" perfect as there are some potential zoning issues I'm trying to hash out with the alderman's office for the location. I want to be able to open a retail store first, and then a tap room down the road. There could be some problems with the current zoning, but like everything else, it will all work out. As much as I'd love to reveal the address, I can't let the cat out of the bag just yet. There's a lot that has to happen before I can sign the lease and it will definitely be several weeks or more before the deal is done, but I REALLY want this space. I'll gladly share the ins and outs of leasing once I have it signed.

Another big deal for me was opening a business checking and credit card account, which I did last week. Yes, it's easy to do (you need to be a registered business entity with your state and get your EIN from the IRS, which is easily done online here), but I had put it off as I thought it might be an additional expense I wasn't ready to take on yet. Turns out, it's pretty cheap and actually free if you maintain a certain balance. An easy task, but it's checked off the list, and that's a good thing.

Now, the big question is, where is Panic Alarmist now in the process? It seems like I'm always saying, "almost ready to fund raise", or "finishing up the legal investment documents". Well, I'm almost ready to fund raise. I'll officially begin once we finally finish up the legal documents. I spent 2 hours on the phone with my attorney last week to go over the damn near final versions of the operating agreement and PPM. We've agreed to have these 100% completed by mid June. Monday, June 17 to be exact. I'm sure I'll have to go through at least a couple more reviews before then, but that is my focus right now. I want this shit done NOW!

I have some final tweaking to the business plan that I will be finishing up over the next two evenings and then that's it. No more business plan changes. Over the past couple of months I've received some new equipment quotes and learned some new info that has allowed me to make some pretty significant changes to my financial analyses ranging from start up costs to ongoing monthly costs. Some changes are required due to how some banks underwrite loans. I'll go into painful detail on bank loans, especially SBA backed ones once I have my loan in place.

Let me go into my business plan process real quick. I finished the plan months ago. Since then I've made numerous revisions both big and small. This is how I operate. When I am learning something new, I iterate over and over until at some point I feel comfortable with the result. I'm not looking for perfection with the business plan, but I'm definitely looking to not commit any egregious errors. Perfect example: there are so many things that could go wrong during the construction process that my costs could be way beyond what I've budgeted. I've tried very hard to mitigate that. But at some point, you have to let it go, roll the dice, and do your best. Most people would've started the dice rolling much sooner than me. That's ok. Everyone is different and I'm very comfortable with how I learn and execute. It's now time to execute.

So here's kinda how the rest of this story unfolds, as I see it:

  1. I get the completed investor documents from my attorney (which is my current primary focus)
  2. I contact all the folks who've expressed interest in investing (there are quite a few), email them the operating agreement, PPM, and some other stuff.
  3. We meet or talk on the phone, I answer any questions investors may have. (more on this when the time comes, which is SOON)
  4. Investors invest, money goes into an escrow account and stays there until a certain funding level is reached
  5. Once a certain funding level is reached, I continue my conversations with the banks I've been dealing with. They see I have investor money and personal investment, they analyze the business plan, they approve, the SBA agrees to guarantee it, loan gets funded. This takes several weeks.
  6. As soon as the loan is funded, I order equipment. Brew house and fermenters require about 6 months to arrive.
  7. Also, as soon as loan is funded, lease is signed. This will take a few weeks of negotiation.
  8. Once lease is signed, contractors allowed to bid, contractors hired, work is completed. How much and what type of work will depend on the space I lease.
  9. On the day the lease is signed, I will submit my paperwork to the TTB (Federal agency in charge of breweries amongst other things). I will have begun completion of this paperwork way before this. TTB approval takes about 2 months. Could be more, could be less.
  10. Once TTB approval is received, I can then start the Illinois state approval process which can take up to 2 months. It would be nice to start this process in parallel with the TTB, but that would make Illinois business friendly.
  11. Construction finishes, equipment is installed, licenses all received, brewing begins.
  12. Beer is brewed, packaged, and sent to a distributor in the Chicago area. I will not be self distributing.
  13. Once operations are smoothed out and cash flow is good, I'll begin the process of opening up a retail store or tap room, depending on zoning and Chicago liquor license bull shit.

So, that's the plan. There are lots of mini tasks in there as well, but this is a good overview of what's involved yet. From the day I get the loan, we're looking at at LEAST 6 months to opening day, most likely 7 or 8. Who knows?

But this I can promise you, it's moving along better now than ever before. It feels very real and there's no stopping.

Last note: My latest batch of Panic Pale Ale is finally in the ballpark of what I'm looking for. There's a lot of tweaking yet to do, I'll be experimenting with some hop schedules, but it's close. Very close.

Cheers,

G

When Is Alarmist Brewing Going To Open?

In this artists rendering, the City of Chicago will look much like this by the time Alarmist is operational. Fortunately by then we'll be able to transport beer directly to customers via the "Ionic-Suds-O-Particleizer 3000".

In this artists rendering, the City of Chicago will look much like this by the time Alarmist is operational. Fortunately by then we'll be able to transport beer directly to customers via the "Ionic-Suds-O-Particleizer 3000".

Ahhh, the eternal question. Second most popular question we get after "Where is the brewery going to be located?" and "Do I have to call the police on you again?". I've been blogging this journey since October 11, 2011. You would think this thing would be up and running right? I remember back when I first started thinking about opening a brewery. I foolishly assumed that the entire process would take a year. Youth is wasted on the young.

Here's the deal. Nate and I have been presented with an awesome opportunity that will make this journey a lot easier and cheaper. We can't divulge all the details yet as there are many things that need to happen to make it come to fruition. It will no doubt add a few extra months to our timeline, but it will be totally worth it, trust me. We're calling this new development "Plan A". We spent hours coming up with that name. Nate initially wanted to call it "A Plan" but I pointed out that he was stupid and he agreed. Our original plan is now entitled "Plan B". Nate also wanted to call that plan "A Plan". Again I pointed out his stupidity and then he parried with "Plan B". Touché Nathan Barth, touché. We will one day do battle again and you will not be let off so easily.

Regardless of which plan ends up working out for us, and one of them definitely will, we won't be opening doors until early 2014.

The reasons for this timeline are quite simple: new equipment requires at least 6 months to be manufactured and delivered, business loans require 2-3 months of processing and analysis (especially SBA ones, according to our sources). We can't buy the equipment until we have secured the loan. Then there are construction timelines, but those in theory would run in parallel with the equipment manufacturing. Oh and the leasing process. That takes some time as well. And then there are some other events that need to occur prior to all of these, adding some extra months as I mentioned previously.

Nate and I have really started to get the loan process figured out and we've begun to reach out to all the potential investors who've contacted us over the past 18 months or so. So all the financing stuff, the most important part of this process, is really starting to come together. Our ability to get a loan looks fantastic and it appears we won't have much trouble getting enough investors on board.

I can tell you that between now and opening day, we will be very, very busy. There are so many things we need to do and there will be very, very few lulls during the run up to opening day. We have to update our branding, figure out package design, finish our recipe formulations and trials, conduct investor meetings, legal documents need finalizing (including partnership stuff which is new to the game), planning our hop contracts, the list goes on.

Nate is as big of a fan of having one's ducks in a row as I am and we are both ruthlessly researching numerous aspects of opening a small business. I can tell you that once we are open, we will have rock solid legal and financial foundations so that we can immediately get to the task of what this is all about: making great beer and getting it to customers.

Cheers,

G