Since New Realm Brewing Company first opened in 2016, an integral part of its vision has been to create a family culture focused on people and community. In early 2020, their Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail location was welcoming over 15,000 weekly visitors, hitting revenue records, and pushing the limit of Georgia’s barrel cap for on-site sales. That was before the Coronavirus pandemic brusquely disrupted the industry and almost every other aspect of society. On March 20, New Realm’s Co-Founder and CEO, Carey Falcone published an official statement articulating how the Atlanta and Virginia Beach locations would pivot their business strategy. Closing their taprooms and restaurants, to-go orders and curbside pickup became the name of the game for most of their business, which saw a revenue decline by over 95%, but there was a lot going on behind the scenes that revealed the company’s unwavering commitment to their community-focused vision.
“New Realm’s leadership demonstrated its commitment to its people by keeping 100% of our staff fully employed,” shared Zach Thoren, the company’s Senior Brand Experience Manager. “We did not have to lay anyone off.”
With 150 salaried and hourly employees in Atlanta alone, this was a huge gamble, even with the financial assistance of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Personal Paycheck Program, but it was one that executives were committed to seeing through.
“We worked hard to try and find ways to keep the team engaged and generate whatever revenue we could.”
Almost a year earlier, the brewery had secured their distillery license in order to expand their beverage offerings to guests. As sanitation needs skyrocketed, this positioned New Realm Brewing Co. to start producing hand sanitizer that could be donated to first responders and other front-line workers as well as be made available for purchase at the brewery.
“We put it for sale, contacted hospitals and fire stations, but we didn’t seek to stir a big press around it,” Thoren explained. “This was a way to give back to the community with what we have in house.”
New Realm also joined forces with ATL Family Meal, created by Electric Hospitality CEO, Michael Lennox, and prepared, packaged, and donated 500 meals a week to unemployed restaurant workers who were struggling in Atlanta.
“We were on fairly solid footing, and we want to do more for our community. Those were our people, and we had an opportunity to make a difference.”
Although to-go orders helped the business stay afloat, they still equated less than 1% of the pre-COVID revenue. Down time was spent creating the safest possible environment for employees, guests, and vendors—namely, deep cleaning, developing new standard operating procedures, cross-training employees for sanitation and security, and enhancing a touchless experience for guests in preparation for reopening.
For New Realm, it wasn’t enough to just meet local, state and federal guidelines and industry benchmarks: where appropriate, they wanted to exceed them. Rather than opening immediately when the Shelter-in-Place order was lifted, they opted to keep seating closed until they felt ready.
“We were in absolutely no hurry to do something because of how seriously we take safety for our employees and our guests.”
Once outdoor seating opened in May, followed by indoor seating a month later, the company enforced a maximum capacity of 15% instead of Georgia’s higher capacity guidelines, even when it meant quietly turning away half of their potential customers on the weekends.
“We are still offering curbside pick-up; although the bulk of our business comes in from the BeltLine. The BeltLine has provided a good general business boost, and to-go orders from our BeltLine-facing window are still important.”
Beyond efforts to keep their community employed, safe and fed, New Realm has also been examining what needs to be done—both internally and externally—to show their commitment to putting people first on a social and civic level.
In a letter written to staff, Vice President, Human Resources Elizabeth C. stated, “New Realm is committed to being a part of the solution and using our business to effect change within the Atlanta community.”
“As a company we have had a lot of internal discussions,” shared Thoren, who acknowledged that, though the craft beer industry is connotated with certain demographics, Atlanta is a good case study on how craft beer can be more diverse. “We’re trying to figure out the best way to have a positive impact on our community, which has led to a series of very lively, social distancing town hall discussions.”
A lot of exciting endeavors are brewing for the company and their staff, including donations and volunteerism. Among them is participating in a nation-wide collaborative brew for a beer called Black is Beautiful. Set up by Weathered Souls Brewing Co. from San Antonio Texas, over 800 other breweries in all 50 states are participating in this initiative designed to bring awareness to the injustices faced by people of color. New Realm will donate 100% of its proceeds of the Black Is Beautiful beer to The Thurgood Marshall College Fund and to the local community organization, 100 Black Men of Atlanta, focused on supporting and enhancing educational and economic opportunities particularly for African- American youth in the Atlanta community.
“Quite frankly, I am proud of how New Realm has been community focused. It’s a diverse group, and that is a strength for us.”