2020 was not, and is not, my favorite year to say the least, but I’m still grateful and very much lucky to be surviving the curve balls thrown my way.
Like many my age, I had big plans for what 2020 was supposed to bring—lofty ideals of personal growth in my day job, maybe being promoted to something new, more business ventures for my siblings and me spurred by the booming night life of 2019, more time for independence and getting to know myself, since I’ve been on my second year of living away from my parents’ house.
As the youngest of five business-minded siblings and the daughter of two very maabilidad entrepreneurs, I am always told about how lucky I am (and I agree) to have a family who basically serves as your partners and mentors when it comes to launching your own business. We’ve been residents of Poblacion, Makati, as far back as when my dad was still my age—a traditional Filipino family who loves to entertain, drink and eat. So it was only natural for us to set up shop (or shops) in what we like to consider our hometown.
In a span of five years, my family has successfully built bars and restaurants that I like to think have become ingrained in the Poblacion nightlife culture: Joe’s Brew, Kampai, Nokal, The Spirits Library and Ebi 10.
The first quarter of the year was great for my siblings and me. Marco has just had a successful year (2019), with his bar Nokal nicely becoming one of the main spots to check out in the area, and was on his way to launching two bars, The Spirits Library and the return of Kampai.
Joey was very hopeful about Joe’s Brew and his plans to start slowly expanding his beer and brewery business. He had churned out more and more bottles and signature beers than the previous year, and even helped open Calle Brewery in Ilocos.
My mom and sister Mica were finalizing plans to expand Ebi 10, from a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Felipe street to having two more branches in Quezon City and Pasig.
Then there was me, playing bunso to everyone and helping out where I could—social media, PR and the like.
2020 seemed like it would be a solid year for us Viray kids. Then—the pandemic.
We have the same story to tell as most businesses. We were forced to pivot to new ways to support not just ourselves and our customers but also our staff, who have been loyal to us. It wasn’t easy seeing our beloved Poblacion slowly change from being the life of the party to a ghost town. With rumors and announcements of bar and restaurant closures, we definitely feared the fate of our businesses—but then, I suppose, this is also when having a big business-minded family truly pays off.
Given our strong personalities, varied marketing backgrounds, grit and wit, as well as our trust in social media and in the communities and customers who continue to support us, we were able to survive and continue to do so today.
There were changes that had to be made, of course, which we did with a big sigh and a heavy heart. Marco decided to close Nokal temporarily due to some nasty landlord issues. Joey had to close his bar and move his brewery to San Pedro, Laguna, joining our friends from Pedro Craft Beers, servicing smaller scale orders and dispatches. Luckily, Kampai was able to reopen come MECQ, shifting from being a bar to being more of a restaurant, creating menu items catering to families and residents in the vicinity, modifying its original nightlife proposition. The Spirits Library continues to operate, focusing more on collaborations with brands for signature bottled cocktails that can be sent as favors or giveaways. We even tried our hand at streaming, seeing that the music community is very active, trading in sponsored branded nights at the bar and sponsored music streams on Twitch and Facebook.
Ebi 10 chose to halt the Pasig store opening and focused instead on take-out and delivery options. We also realized that with layoffs and people suffering from declining income, our food seemed to be becoming too expensive, so we quickly created lighter meal options that were pocket-friendlier without having to sacrifice taste and quality. We tapped cashless transactions, re-engineering the whole dining experience to comply with government safety protocols.
Of course, our businesses are not solely ours. We have partners, and we are grateful for their help; they continue to be a big reason we continue running.
It all sounds like very small adjustments, but put together, these small moves, combined with consistent social media posts and the support of family and friends, is what helped keep our businesses afloat. At the end of the day, what continues to save us is being able to act quickly to the changing market, knowing what risks to take—and when to let go.
We’ve had our fair share of heated arguments and nonstop nights of Zoom meetings and phone calls, where the stress of this pandemic is truly felt and seen in each of our faces. It’s a constant tug of war—what we can do, what we can offer and what we can sell, but I’m happy to say that so far, fingers crossed, our ideas seem to be working and customers are slowly coming back.
We cannot wait for this slow burn of 2020 to be over and, just like everyone else, get our lives back to normal. But in the meantime, we are hanging on!
Both my brothers have high hopes of reopening Nokal and Joe’s Brew at the right time. For my sister, mom and myself, Ebi 10 has been doing well, with all branches in full swing, and we are excited to maximize our new BGC branch and eventually give our Poblacion spot a makeover next year.
We were taught not to quit, especially if we really do believe in our products, so expect that we’ll be navigating through what’s left of the year and prepping for our comeback the soonest we can.
Today, tomorrow and the day after, I hope everyone can support small businesses and check our stores out! We’re open every day, with different hours (you can check our social media pages) and maybe order a meal or beer for delivery, or even visit the places.