It is with great sadness that today we announce that for another year there won’t be an edition of Indy Man Beer Con. This is a decision we have not come to lightly, and one we have made only having explored every other possible option while retaining the festival’s home as Victoria Baths.
We have taken a lot of time to try and work out how we could run the event in a safe and sensible way which would also deliver on the atmosphere, feeling, and buzz of IMBC. When we think of festivals past, we imagine busy and bustling rooms, chats with friends in the nooks and crannies of the space, standing shoulder to shoulder and chatting to strangers whilst deciding which DIPA to drink. It is highly likely that some of that would’ve been lacking in a 2021 version of Indy Man, but our discussions made clear how different it would actually be.
Victoria Baths is what gives IMBC a lot of its character – the narrow corridors, the pools, the maze of little rooms that hold bars: sadly, means lots of enclosed areas and pinch points, which is far from ideal in the current climate. The only sensible way to make the event work in a way that everyone attending would feel safe would’ve been to reduce capacity. Our most optimistic estimate would’ve seen attendance reduced by 33% – this, in turn, would also decrease the number of breweries attending, the range of beers available, and the amount of other interesting things we’d have been able to offer (food traders, music, talks, tastings). In addition, there is also no guarantee on what travel restrictions will be in place over the coming months: international breweries have always played a massive role in shaping the festival, but it would’ve been enormously difficult to make any plans for our favourite brewers from overseas to make the journey.
Even if we accepted those limitations, this reduction in capacity would put the event in a situation in which making a loss would almost be inevitable (unless we hugely inflated prices, which would come with its own issues for a limited version of the event). This was a risk for the future of the festival we were very hesitant to take. Any discussions we may have had about running a much-reduced version of IMBC were immediately cut short when it became clear that we would also be unable to insure the event against cancellation if regulations were to change. Going ahead would’ve meant gambling our entire business, with every chance that we could be told the day or week before opening that IMBC wouldn’t be able to go ahead (as has happened several times in our industry over the past 18 months), and with no way of ever recovering.
Our core business is in hospitality, running venues across Manchester: the last year has given us a pretty tough time, and it is obviously heartbreaking for everyone to miss out on Indy Man Beer Con again this year. However, we felt we needed to consider the wellbeing of our customers, the sanity of our team, the financial stability of the IMBC, and the integrity of an event we have lavished so much love on over the last 9 years.
There are some positives: all being well, we’ll be back in 2022, better than ever before, and our sister festival Summer Beer Thing also has some exciting news to share in the coming days, which we can’t wait for you to hear. Thanks so much for your support over the years, and we can’t wait to welcome you back to Victoria Baths in the not-too-distant future.