While many dog owners dream of training their dogs to fetch them beer, that’s just what golden retrievers Buddy, 3, and Barley, 1, are doing amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mark and Karen Heuwetter, co-founders of Six Harbors Brewing Company in Huntington, a coastal town on Long Island, New York, were inspired to bring the dogs on beer deliveries to cheer up customers.
“People started seeing the dogs on the deliveries, and so we came up with the idea of having them [help] bring the beer to them,” Mark Heuwetter, co-founder of Six Harbors Brewing Company tells CNBC Make It.
As the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March, the brewery was deemed an “essential business,” so it was able to stay open for deliveries and curbside pick-up, which the owners had never done before.
“It really wasn’t a big factor in our business model, so we kind of had to re-develop ourselves,” Heuwetter says.
Like many pups, the Brew Dogs love to go on car rides and stick their heads out the window. So rather than leave them at the brewery while making deliveries, Heuwetter decided to take them along.
The Heuwetters fashioned “little accents” that could hang on the dogs’ necks like a collar and carry four beer cans. (They used empties, because “we’re dog-loving people and we wouldn’t want to have them get hurt in any way or shake up the beer,” Heuwetter says.)
Like St. Bernard dogs with a barrel of whiskey around their necks, the Brew Dogs quickly became mascots.
On deliveries, the humans wearing masks and gloves carry the beer to the drop-off point, and then let the dogs greet the customers and snap some photos wearing their beer accessories.
The brewery would typically serve more than 600 pints a day on the weekend, but now the dogs and Heuwetters make about four to 12 deliveries in a day.
And while April and May are typically the biggest months of business for the brewery, sales are down 70% to 80% from April 2019 due to the pandemic, Heuwetter says. The brewery’s staff of 11 part-time employees have also been furloughed, with members of the Heuwetter family picking up shifts to help. (Heuwetter says he has applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan. At the moment, it’s not clear when the brewery will be able to officially reopen for business.)
So the dogs, who have more than 500 followers on Instagram, have been a bright spot.
“[Customers] have a blast, because during this time with the social distancing, people are looking for some sort of socialization,” Heuwetter says.
For those wondering about safety, while there have been rare cases of dogs in Hong Kong getting Covid-19, the Centers for Disease Control says there’s no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes Covid-19. (Though it’s important to wash your hands after touching pets.)
And though dogs can get other types of coronaviruses, Covid-19 is not believed to be a threat to dogs. However, the CDC does advise against letting your pets interact with people or other animals outside the household. (Heuwetter did not immediately respond to CNBC Make It’s request for comment on the CDC’s recommendations.)
Even after the pandemic, the Brew Dogs aren’t going anywhere. The brewery is dog-friendly, so under normal circumstances customers like to bring their own dogs to have a beer and socialize.
In fact, older dog Buddy, has been “a staple of the establishment,” since it opened in May 2018, Heuwetter says. As people would pull into the brewery drive way, Buddy would run to greet customers and walk them in.
“We never taught him do that, he just kind of picked it up,” Heuwetter says.
“He was like the mayor. He would go out there every single table and greet people and get petted, because quite frankly he’s a dog, he wants to have pets.”