When Brendan and Bailey O’Leary first introduced their idea for True Respite Brewing Company in August, they were hopeful they could open in Bethesda by 2017.
Since then, the harsh reality of starting a business without significant capital in an expensive Bethesda real estate market has slowed the process. However, the husband-and-wife team from Denver say they are getting closer to securing the money necessary to launch the brewery. They say they need to raise between $1.5 million and $2.2 million in private capital to achieve their vision.
“Has it been easy? No,” O’Leary said. “It’s been tough and fundraising has been the hardest. It’s been by far the hardest part so far. As a concept, we’re asking for a lot more money than most start-up breweries, because in Bethesda, we want to start right in the middle of the downtown, where people can get to us.
“We really see a huge opportunity to connect with the local population in a place where it’s cool to hang out, cool to be and it’s easy to get there—to us that’s worth a whole lot of money. That’s our big gamble.”
The co-founders—Brendan is 28 and Bailey is 27—studied engineering at Georgia Tech. They are in negotiations with a landlord in Bethesda to secure a space, although the location won’t be revealed until the deal is done, according to Brendan O’Leary.
This week, the couple launched a website with more details about the potential brewery, including renderings of the interior and a business plan. If built, the 20-barrel system planned by the O’Learys would be the largest in the county, capable of producing about 3,000 barrels of beer per year.
The interior design shown in the renderings features light wood accents, an exposed brewing systemand a tree inside the taproom. The O’Learys describe the look as an “adult tree house… merged with the clean, sleek and modern lines of contemporary architecture.”
Originally, the co-founders had signed on a friend and fellow Georgia Tech grad to serve as brewmaster, but he left the project as the search for capital took longer than expected, according to Brendan O’Leary. Since then, they’ve hired another brewmaster, whose current employment situation “requires that he remain anonymous on the record,” according to the brewery website.
The couple say they haven’t given up on opening locally, despite the significant expense, because they believe the lack of local breweries presents an untapped economic opportunity. There are currently two similar-sized breweries operating in southern Montgomery County—Denizens Brewing Co. in Silver Spring and 7 Locks Brewing in Rockville. The O’Learys are in the process of applying for a small business loan to help finance start-up costs as they continue the search for investors.
“The website is a way to introduce ourselves to the Bethesda market to give folks an idea of what we are trying to do,” Brendan O’Leary said. He said the process of starting the brewery has been “hit and miss” with a few successes, followed by some setbacks.