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Bright Eye Beer goes dry as virus shutters many businesses in Long Beach

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On a balmy Friday night in February, the Bright Eye Beer Co. on Park Avenue, smack in the middle of Long Beach, opened its doors, finally fulfilling the dreams of its owners, Luke Heneghan, his sister Kiera and another partner, Molly Allare.

Hundreds, including Long Beach and Chamber of Commerce officials, attended a grand opening, offering cheers and best-of-luck toasts to the city’s big new brewery.

But a nasty virus originating thousands of miles away, called COVID-19, swooped down, forcing Bright Eye Beer and hundreds of other businesses in Long Beach to close. Like many others, the brewery with the big windows facing City Hall, is offering only take-out service. But the tables are empty, and most of the place is dark.

“It’s definitely tough,” Heneghan, 29, said as he sat at the bar a few days ago. “Our model is the taproom” where customers sit and sip a brew or two. ‘Luckily, we have product on site. But we have to re-think our plan, at least short term.”

Bright Eye Beer can sell a 32-ounce can, which it calls a crowler, for $13. But that does not compare to the 150 to 200 customers who jammed the place on a typical evening these last few weeks, Heneghan said. A few of the part-time Tap Room staff have been let go, and Heneghan hopes he does not have to shed any more workers during the coronavirus crises.

Bright Eye Beer offered 8 kinds of beers of its own making, and Heneghan said the place was “wiped out” by crowds during the first few weekends. The 5,000-square-foot space at 50 West Park Avenue was once home to Long Beach Craft & Variety, Heneghan and his partners transformed it into a tidy cafe with tables and a long bar. Much of the wood to build the brewery was recycled from the variety store. Some favorites are “The Regular Slice” and “Foam-0.”

Heneghan comes from a family of brewers. His family owns J.A. Heneghan’s Tavern in Point Lookout, and he named Bright Eye Beer after the old Bright Eye Fishing Company in Point Lookout.

After the years Heneghan and his partners spent putting Bright Eye Beer together, the young owner finds it hard to even think of going out of business. What he maintains, he said, is hope.

“But over the long-term, we can’t survive without the taproom,” he said.