Tuesday, March 5, 2024

One week before opening Tidewater Brewing Company devastated by Florence

Tidewater, the first cooperatively-owned brewery in the region, was just a week from opening when Hurricane Florence tore the roof off the building.

Destruction at the Tidewater Brewing Company was widespread after Hurricane Florence (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
Destruction at the Tidewater Brewing Company was widespread after Hurricane Florence. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

WILMINGTON — It’s a project that has been two years in the making that was destroyed in a matter of minutes. Countless man-hours have been poured into building Wilmington’s first co-op brewery and Tidewater Brewing Company was ready to open the week after Hurricane Florence hit — now, it’s going to take a little more time.

Co-owner of Tidewater Brewing Company Ethan Hall was at home in Rocky Point when he first go the news that his nearly-complete brewery had lost its roof.

“We’ve been working on this project for about two-and-a-half years … Last Friday, the day when the storm came in we were supposed to have our final inspection on the building so we would have our certificate of occupancy – so our goal was to be open this week. Friday, at 9:30 in the morning one of our owners that had left town was watching The Weather Channel and the storm and sent me a picture of our building – on The Weather Channel – missing the roof,” Hall said.

The taproom and bar area in Tidewater Brewing's building after Hurricane Florence (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
The taproom and bar area in Tidewater Brewing’s building after Hurricane Florence. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

When the eye of the hurricane hit the area, Hall jumped in his Jeep and took off for Wilmington and his brewery to see what could be saved.

Hall, along with the building owner and other brewery owners, met at the building to survey the damages – as well as secure it the best that they could to protect it from looters.

“We started gathering everything that we could get out of the weather and throwing it inside that 12-by-12 cooler, and then putting the scissor lift in front of it so nobody could loot us. That was just one of our problems,” Hall said.

The old building located in the so-called Soda Pop District has stood the test of time in Wilmington for decades, and has weathered several storms, but Florence was the one that did the most damage.

The roll-up doors had been completely ripped off their rollers and the roof was laying in the middle of Market Street.

Rebuilding

Damages were catastropic at Tidewater Brewing, but the equipment for brewing managed to stay mostly in working order under a portion of the roof that remained (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
Damages were catastropic at Tidewater Brewing, but the equipment for brewing managed to stay mostly in working order under a portion of the roof that remained intact. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

Anyone who has ever dealt with an insurance claim knows that the insurance company typically does not provide the full amount of money needed to rebuild a project, Hall said. That is why one of the avenues the brewery is going is through community outreach, a GoFundMe page has been established to help cover the amount not paid by insurance, Hall said.

“Our goal with the GoFundMe page is to bridge the gap between what the insurance pays and what they don’t. We have spent a lot of money on this building – the building owner had spent a lot as well, we’ve had a good bit of money into this project. The GoFundMe is just to bridge that gap,” he said.

“Originally, (other members of the brewery) were going to stay here because they were worried about staying in their house, they thought, ‘this building has been here since 1939 – it weathered Hurricane Hazel.’ I knew he didn’t stay here so it was okay — nobody was injured, nobody got killed, it’s a building, we can rebuild,” ethan hall, co-owner of Tidewater brewing company.

“The goal for the fundraiser page is $150,000 — if we get there great, if not, every penny helps,” Hall said.

“Anything not used on rebuilding the brewery is not just going to go into lining the owners’ pockets,” Hall said he plans on giving back to first responders with any leftover funds.

It is still early and the damages are still being assessed, but Hall is optimistic about the project. He expects the damages will set the company back about six months.

All-in-all, things could have been worse.

“It was kind of an ‘aw [expletive] moment’ — a lot of people are thinking it’s the end of the world and it’s like — no, it’s not the end of the world. Originally, (other members of the brewery) were going to stay here because they were worried about staying in their house, they thought, ‘this building has been here since 1939 – it weathered Hurricane Hazel.’ I knew he didn’t stay here so it was okay — nobody was injured, nobody got killed, it’s a building, we can rebuild,” Hall said.

T-shirts drying at Tidewater Brewing after the storm (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
T-shirts drying at Tidewater Brewing after the storm. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

Hall also had a 1966 Ford Mustang convertible parked inside of the brewery for safe keeping — it was left completely undamaged, he said.

There will be a lot for the company to rebuild, but Hall said he expects the walls will remain and the actual foundation is concrete so it is not a total loss. As for the brewing equipment, the bulk of the equipment stayed on the ground, and undamaged. In fact, the roof above most of the brewing equipment stayed on sparing them from the rain.

The wooden floor in the tasting room will likely have to be ripped up out of fears of water damage, but at the end of the day, Tidwater will be rebuilt, it will just take a few more months.


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