“In the last four days we did more business than we had in the last six weeks,” said owner Josh Martinez.

In the weeks after Gov. Mike DeWine shut down much of the state amid the initial coronavirus wave, Pretentious Barrel House managed to get by, subsisting on home delivery orders that spiked following the closure. Gradually, though, business started to fall off for the sour beer purveyor, which will celebrate its third anniversary in October, crashing in the weeks after DeWine allowed businesses to reopen.

“Once the bars were opening and people were wanting to go out, they were forgetting about us and other places, for sure,” said Martinez, who said the brewery typically doesn’t do a booming summer trade because its East Side taproom, located at 745 Taylor Ave., lacks an outdoor patio space. “I was surprised how well we were doing in April, and then again in May, but June was going bad and July was going bad and I was just like, ‘We can’t do this again in August.’ ... As a startup, you’re going to have good weeks and bad weeks, and good quarters and bad quarters, but the last few quarters there just weren’t any silver linings to be found.”

Amid the downturn, which coincided with the brewery exhausting received PPP funds, Martinez started to have conversations with investors, discussing options such as shutting down brewing operations and cutting staff with an eye on relaunching post-COVID. “And that’s not something I wanted to do; I’d rather keep all of my employees getting paid, because it’s not a good job market right now for them,” Martinez said. “And they also have healthcare through us, and [a pandemic] is not a good time to lose healthcare.”

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