Emerging from the restrictions of COVID, No-Li owner John Bryant reflects on small business's role in the community

Inlander Restaurant Week 2021

Before speaking about the importance of "drinking local," John Bryant issues a clarification.

"For this, I mean it's important to drink locally owned," the co-founder of No-Li Brewhouse stresses. "We have to consider whether the money raised by a business is staying in Spokane."

This is not a minor scruple.

COVID-19 brought into focus something that business owners in Spokane have long understood: Every piece of this town's economy is connected to every other piece.

While throughout the pandemic the refrain "shop local" has been reiterated enough times to make it into a kind of truism, there is something incredibly potent to be grasped from understanding what local alliances look like in practice. For Bryant, this focus on the relationality of all the businesses in town has affected everything from his outreach efforts to his hiring practices to his relationships with the other businesses on Hamilton Street.

"We all share customers and help each other," he says. "If one of us is full, then we send them to the other, and vice versa."

Each step of the way, No-Li has forged new partnerships and strengthened pre-existing bonds.

"COVID taught us that if you engage and you're open and your intent is to bring people together, then things start clicking," Bryant says. "I hope the community has seen that we didn't give up, that COVID made us all better, because we're so interdependent. Those who fought it out and were lucky enough to stay open had to have those survival skills."

One of these survival skills is simple: creating better, more varied drinks. In this regard, an eye toward improving craft has really paid off.

New, summer-appropriate No-Li thirst quenchers such as a huckleberry lemonade seltzer, a canned mojito, and the Threezy Does It Low Cal Hazy IPA are available to sip outside on the brewhouse's award-winning patio along the river.

The patio has become even more immaculate since COVID, when No-Li decided not to serve food anymore. In doing so, Bryant and his team hope that more people will funnel through their space, have a beer by the water, and then move on to wherever the city's current takes them for food or more drinks. "It's not a zero-sum game," he says. "We have to be a draw point to get more people into the city, so everyone does well. We're not trying to hog any customer; we're trying to create more of them."

Spokane Jewish Cultural Film Festival @ Gonzaga University Jepson Center

Through Feb. 5
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