As brew houses open in several states, the risk of becoming coronavirus hotspots runs high. An outbreak in East Lansing, Michigan, has been traced back to a brewpub. That facility closed down to take necessary precautions, including an update to its HVAC system.
Artisanal Brewing Ventures (ABV), a Charlotte, North Carolina business that operates taprooms in five states, already took precautions long before re-opening its nine locations. ABV installed the GPS Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization (NPBI) technology, which emits purify the air by eliminating airborne particulates, odors, and pathogens. The system emits a high volume of ions that steal away hydrogen from the pathogens, driving them out of the air space and leaving clean, healthy indoor air. GPS is installed in more than 150,000 locations worldwide, including Duke University Medical Center and Charlotte Douglas Airport.
The company started to look for a solution in mid-April. ABV polled about 25,000 customers to assess their biggest concerns around going out again. The company already planned to follow all the requisite guidelines laid out by the CDC and state government. It has also reinvented its menu to allow for maximum social distancing by the kitchen staff as well as how food and drinks are served to minimize lines and the number of contacts by its staff. What customers were most worried about, however, were the hard-to-control factors — the kind that rules around social distancing and wearing masks did little to prevent.
“Our customer survey told us we needed to do more to make people feel safe,” said John Coleman, ABV’s CEO. “So we looked at adding new technology to our HVAC system that cleans the air, deactivates viruses and other pathogens, and provides an additional layer of protection.”
Derek Detenber, ABV’s chief marketing officer, said the company looked at several solutions before selecting the Needlepoint system. The fact the system was in place at medical and government facilities appealed to ABV executives. So did the cost of installation. GPS was able to connect the company with preferred contractors in each location, ranging from North Carolina to Ohio.
ABV also put the system in place at its offices and breweries. The company plans to install the equipment at any new facilities it opens in the future, Detenber said. It is an added expense, he said, but far lower than the cost of being portrayed as an irresponsible member of the local community.
The customer feedback ABV received so far has been very positive. The company has promoted the system in social media and other venues as one of the steps it’s taking to protect customers and staff. This makes it effective for attracting workers as the taprooms reopen.
“The hard part about it is that it’s technology that you can’t see or feel,” Detenber said. “You have to trust that it’s working.”
Detenber said employees can smell that it’s working, as the ionizer reduces the yeasty odors common to a brewery.