Black Sheep Brewery boss says 90 per cent of trade 'disappeared overnight' because of lockdown

The chief executive of one of Yorkshire’s most famous breweries has warned of the perilous state of the industry after the coronavirus pandemic has ripped through the sector.

The brewing trade has faced huge challenges throughout the past year as the Covid-19 crisis has caused major disruption to supply chains and demand as pubs and restaurants have been forced to repeatedly close during the lockdowns.

The chief executive officer of the Masham-based Black Sheep Brewery, Charlene Lyons, told The Yorkshire Post that the business has had adapt swiftly to cope with the challenges, with its online sales growing by more than 2,500 per cent in the past year.

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Mrs Lyons said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on the hospitality trade, and the businesses which have managed to survive have changed dramatically.

Charlene Lyons, chief executive of Black Sheep Brewery

“Finding the time to focus on making the changes that have been required has been a massive challenge. For us, 90 per cent of our trade disappeared overnight when the first lockdown was imposed.

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“Our online side of the business was pretty much non-existent before Covid-19, but we have had to cope with the growth in demand. That has been a positive in may ways, as we will hopefully come out of this as a stronger business. But there is still such extreme caution as no-one knows what the new normal will look like.”

About 80 per cent of the Black Sheep Brewery’s 70 staff had to be furloughed, although the workers have now returned full-time to cope with the demand as lockdown restrictions ease.

Charlene Lyons, chief executive of Black Sheep Brewery

However, only about a third of the pubs which buy in beer from the Black Sheep Brewery re-opened on Monday when the hospitality trade was allowed to serve customers again from outside areas.

Another of Yorkshire’s most popular breweries, Wold Top Brewery in Hunmanby near Driffield, has also faced significant challenges. Kate Balchin, runs the business with her husband, Alex, after taking over from her father, Tom Mellor, who founded the brewery in 2003. The business has also seen a surge in online orders which have risen by more than 1,000 per cent in the past year.

Mrs Balchin said: “There is still a lot of uncertainty and caution in the industry, but hopefully this summer we will see something approaching normal back again.”