Timing is everything… or so some say. Hangar 24 Brewery was flying high earlier this year with the opening of its third location in Irvine. Hangar 24 founder Ben Cook combines his passion for adventure and love of beer to create high-quality craft beer and tasting rooms that bring friends together and build a community. This new location expanded the H24 brand and Ben’s passions into Orange County.
The Irvine location is close to the John Wayne Airport and nestled in the bustling Intersect business complex. This new location provides Hangar 24 a 3000-square-foot indoor dining space, a two-acre outdoor patio where they could serve up a full selection of craft beer, and their California casual menu. The outdoor area also includes a live music space, a volleyball court, and a basketball court. “The location and facility are tailor-made for OC professionals to meet up at lunch, after work, or schedule business events,” said Brandon Montillione, general manager at Hangar 24 Orange County. He continued, “we opened up on March 2nd, and on March 19th, the governor issued the California Stay Home order, which meant we needed to pivot our business model quickly.”
Not only did Hangar 24 have this new facility to think about but also their original brewery and taproom in Redlands, CA, and a taproom and restaurant in Lake Havasu, AZ, all with employees who needed to work. All three locations were required to adapt to the economic situation that was best suited for its location.
Hangar 24 had to work with each location to pivot its business model. Adding to the already complicated issues businesses faced with COVID-19, Hangar 24 has locations in California and Arizona, and the rules were different for each state. In California, their locations are in different counties, so they had to ensure that they complied with local guidance for each site and keep all their employees informed on changes to the daily business operations. “There were a ton of conference calls, in the beginning, to ensure all the Hanger 24 teams were on the same page. While it continues to be challenging with the ever-changing rules, we were able to keep all our locations open and running,” said Brandon proudly.
One of the first areas in which Hangar 24 knew they could make a positive impact in the communities they serve was to manufacture hand sanitizer and make it available for online purchases. They promoted their new hand sanitizer and their take-out food, delivery of their menu items, and online beer purchases for each location to keep as much of the staff as possible.
The Irvine location faced some unique challenges. While Hanger 24’s Redlands location opened in 2008, and Lake Havasu, AZ, opened in 2017, the Irvine location didn’t have the opportunity to build a loyal following yet. Brandon had to work quickly to create awareness to keep the doors of the recently opened Irvine location up and running.
Most of the businesses and hotels in the area were shuttered, so Brandon and his team turned to social media channels to get the word out about their take-out orders for beer, food, and hand sanitizer. Unlike many companies, Hangar24 has multiple social media accounts for each location, allowing each site to personalize their outreach and connection to their customers.
Brandon also created a merchandise stand on the street (Von Karman and Main) for a drive-through service for their highly-rated Nashville chicken sandwich. The merchandise stand allowed Hangar 24 to build brand awareness at a grassroots neighborhood level. That, combined with their social accounts, has allowed Hangar 24 to build a loyal following in Orange County.
“We are lucky that when O.C. was allowed to open up for outdoor dining, we had the space that would allow us to create a safe and socially distanced environment,” said Brandon. Of course, there are challenges with moving everything outdoors. Hangar 24 needed more workers to implement additional cleaning protocols to keep employees and customers safe. He continues, “I know that all restaurants and taprooms faced these challenges. We are lucky to have the outdoor space available to make it work. Our team created 11×11 spaces outside to accommodate small groups. These spaces are marked and available on a first-come, first-served basis allowing a bit of normalcy when going out.”
Music is a big part of the O.C. Hangar 24 experience, and the team in Irvine created an area where the performers could be socially distanced from the customers. “We are one of the few places that have continued to offer live music during the pandemic. Summer and Fall traditionally means music, brews, and good food with your friends, and we are thrilled that we can provide this much-needed environment for locals and people visiting our area. Our restaurant also has a full bar, so non-beer drinkers will have the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful setting,” said Brandon.
Hangar 24’s Redlands location expanded their outdoor patio seating area. The Redlands team added misters on the patio so customers could comfortably enjoy a cold Orange Honey Wheat beer and food from the food trucks that partner with Hangar 24. The Lake Havasu City, AZ, location is open for physical distance indoor dining and recently launched a new menu.
“All of our locations are working to create a fun and festive environment, especially during COVID-19. We want our customers to feel safe and have the opportunity to get out and enjoy some craft beer, delicious food, and music when possible. I think we provide a bit of normalcy, fun, and community for our guests,” Brandon concluded.
Visit the Hangar 24 website to check out the story of how Ben Cook combined his love of flying and craft beer to create the Hangar24 experience. While you are on the website you can see what craft brew flavors are available this month. To get a flavor of the Hangar 24 community, craft beers, menu, and activities check out each location’s Instagram page:
Orange County Instagram
One final note from Brandon: our OC location is validating parking, making it even easier to come out and enjoy tacos, burgers, and our Nashville hot chicken sandwich with an ice-cold brew.