The Ucluelet Brewing Company can officially boast an award winning ambience.
The company was recently announced the winner of the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board’s Award of Excellence in the hospitality category.
The company’s owner Dennis Morgan told the Westerly News the award reflects the community’s strong local skillsets.
“It’s fantastic for Ucluelet to have the talent to be able to pull this renovation off to the degree that it happened and to the degree that it got an award,” the company’s owner Dennis Morgan told the Westerly News. “It’s all local expertise, skill and thought that pulled it together.”
The award also represents a significant full-circle turnaround for the building formerly known as St. Aidan’s on the Hill church, which was built by community volunteers. The church was deconsecrated in 2010 and sold to develop Leif Hagar who ran into a zoning dispute with the district, leading to the building becoming unused and a rundown eyesore in the centre of town before Morgan presented a plan to transform the space into the community’s first microbrewery in 2016.
Renovations took several years and the brewery opened its doors in the spring of 2020.
Morgan said the award presents a positive reflection on, and vindication of, the patience and attention to detail put into the development.
“A lot of thought and effort and time and money, honestly, went into it. This wasn’t something we wanted to get open as fast as we can and make money. We thought, ‘ We’re going to do this and we’re going to do it right and so it’s going to take a bit longer,’” he said.
“It took what it took and that was the right amount of time and when people walk in the door, they’re blown away…It’s really well done and well designed and that shows. You can walk in and see the high standards and high quality materials that went into this.”
He said the skill-sets that came together to bring his vision to fruition were “huge” and he heralded the high standards of local builders.
“Having the broad scope of local talent allows things to happen more efficiently,” he said. “It all came off to such a high standard. It’s award winning…There’s constant little surprises. I was talking to somebody the other day that was saying every time they come in here they notice something new, there are little things that they don’t necessarily see every visit; it takes a few visits to see those things, some of the finer aspects of woodworking.”
Business has not been as smooth sailing as hoped as the brewery’s first year of operation was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the doors to close just week’s after its grand opening. Morgan said he was grateful for the town’s support through take-out sales during the early summer’s COVID-19 restrictions and noted the brewery has reopened, though its inside seating capacity maxes out around 25 to adhere to social distancing protocols. He said he plans to stay open during the winter months and will bring in canopies and heaters to create a “cozy little atmosphere,” on the patio, which overlooks Ucluelet downtown core and harbour.
“The whole plan for this was to be a local place to hang out. Locals were very supportive during COVID, when I was doing the growlers, and I’m pretty sure they’re going to be supportive this winter, they’re just kind of waiting for the tourists to go away,” he said. “I’m pretty optimistic that I’m going to survive through the winter, but I don’t think I’ll be raking it in in any way. My focus now is to look for where I can cut costs wherever I can and be efficient and survive the winter.”