Ishii Brewing Co., the maker of Minagof beers, is closing its doors by the end of September after 10 years of producing specialty beers on Guam.
It's the latest in a string of businesses the COVID-19 pandemic has forced to close, with tourism at a standstill and unemployment at a staggering rate.
The brewery's signature Minagof, the CHamoru word for "happiness," is a craft beer especially made for Guam by Toshiyuki Ishii.
"We have been having a hard time and struggling for 10 years already and now we are closing," co-owner Yukiko Ishii said in an email response to The Guam Daily Post.
It's a "hard decision to close the beer business," the Ishiis said on their social media page. "Thank you so much for your patronage over 10 years."
The brewery's distinct beers are the Minagof Pale Ale, Minagof India Pale Ale, Minagof Smoked Porter, Minagof Green Tea IPA and Minagof White IPA.
"We have been trying to spread the value of 'Made in Guam product' locally, but it was much harder than expected," Toshi and Yukiko Ishii said. "Under this pandemic, we truly realized how our sales depended on tourists."
But still, they said, "some local customers loved and drank our beer, even though much (more) expensive compared to mass production beer."
Ishii Brewing announced on social media its final Minagof beer sale, from Sept. 5-12, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at its Tamuning brewery.
Besides the specialty beers, the brewery is also selling used shelves, racks, chairs, tables, fire extinguishers and other items.
According to the Ishiis, their brewery location will be closed by the building owner because the building is now too old. They have been looking for a new location since October 2019, "but this COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything."
"With no hope of tourists coming back like before, our sales keep far less than last year – that cannot even cover current rent," they said. "We cannot afford the cost of relocation, nor new raised rent."
The owners of the brewery are hopeful that someday Minagof beers find their way back into the hands of customers.
Around Guam, businesses that have been in existence for years or even decades have not been spared from the COVID-19 pandemic's challenges. Here are some of the most notable permanent closures in recent months:
• Travel Pacificana in Hagåtña, closed after 44 years
• Paulino Enterprise Communication in Tamuning, after 20 years
• Forever 21 in Tamuning
• Kitchen Lingo in Hagåtña
• Kådu in Mangilao
• Tony Roma's at Agana Shopping Center
• Froots at Agana Shopping Center
• Playport at Agana Shopping Center
• Java Junction in Hagåtña
The COVID-19 lockdown and Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1 also required the temporary closures or limited operations of a number of other businesses.
Some of them have been forced to close for five months now, which means their employees have been furloughed, laid off or had their hours cut. Unemployment aid claims have surpassed 55,000.