Hebridean Brewing Company Ltd, based in Stornoway, has launched a public appeal for funds totalling £140,000 via the gofundme website .
Director Tina Ribbens explains the challenges and hopes of the company in the heartfelt appeal.
She says : “In 2014, the Hebridean Brewing Co Ltd was formed to relaunch the original Hebridean Brewing Co., founded in 2001, which was forced to close due to severe ill health of the original owner - our son, Andy.” He has now recovered his health.
The business was relocated into its current location, named The Edge O’the World, on Shell Street, next to Tesco’s store car park. “This new premises houses our brewery, our new Ale house/visitor centre, the retail shop, and the third phase - a back packer hostel yet to be completed.
“Our strategy was to brew and supply locally during the busier periods and concentrate on the building work required to open the bar/ visitor side during the winter, building a stable basis to trade from, with the building itself supporting the brewing operation.
“Our ultimate goal is to buy the building and to develop the third phase in the upper level.”
On March 31, 2017 just as the company had their plans finally signed off by the local authority for the Edge O’the World ale house and brewery visitor centre and got this side of the business trading, HMRC introduced the Alcohol Wholesalers Registration Scheme.
The intention of this regulation was to control the wholesale trade in alcohol and curb tax evasion.
“Over 1700 licences to supply wholesale have been rejected and we were one of these. The reasons are spurious to say the least and the appeals process takes over a year. In one fell swoop our core business was removed by the decision of a single junior officer.
“An appeal was lodged immediately and our lawyer (also representing double-figure other brewers’ appeals) was employed. He has informed us that of all those on his books we have the strongest case to be reinstated.
“There is no permission to trade wholesale whilst the appeal goes through and…this process is long and therefore leaves us in limbo.
“The Edge O’the World Ale House has traded for nine months, as ironically we are still allowed to retail our own products. This is our only source of income at present.
“We have had to stop supply to all customers and turn away many seeking out new supply.
“We are confident of winning the appeal and getting our AWRS granted but due to the length of time of the appeals process with no income we are struggling.
“Loans are now being called in where we cannot service them and debts mounting.
“Once we win our appeal we will make a claim for compensation against the losses incurred, but again, this will be a long process.
“This year everything was in place to operate fully for the first time and to start building that stable base from which to expand. We have stuck at this in a belief of what we want to achieve.
“This is a family-run business which was set up to create local employment.
“Our family was forced to move away from the island in the 50s due to lack of employment. My son moved back to the croft and family home which my father left him.
“The Edge O’the World Ale house has been a great success and our Facebook page has received 100% 5 star reviews since opening.
“Our ethos is that alcohol should only be part of the experience, so we also supply teas and coffees, free soft drinks to designated drivers, and are both children and dog friendly.
“As part of our green outlook, we have a vision of making this the greenest brewery in Britain with a plan to grow organic barley and have a malting on island. We have started to plant a small orchard and will be setting up hives in the near future to produce the first Hebridean mead since the Vikings from locally kept bees. “
The company is looking for the funding to:
- stabilise the business and allow us to fight our appeal.
- re employ staff in order to generate sales and produce our fine products
- purchase further stock for production of beers and bottling.
- To allow us to trade wholesale as soon as the AWRS is granted and to give us bottled stock to retail over the tourist season.