Lily Ricci and Victor Bartash

Project Overview

Put simply, Cape is a social enterprise beer company that is committed to reducing the world water crisis, one beer at a time. Every 12 oz. of beer is a 10-cent investment in the future of our commonly held global water resources. One Beer, One Pledge. Beer for Water.

As the 3rd most popular drink in the US, we believe beer has enormous, unlocked potential. Cape works to harness the social energy inherent in beer drinking and channel it towards long-term, social change. By targeting venues like community bars, music festivals, sporting events, and college campuses, we hope to spark a movement that inspires people to come together around beer while engaging in one of the most crucial issues of our time.

If Prohibition taught us anything, beer isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Let’s revel in this challenge and opportunity by coming together to turn what we love into a socially responsible action. Let’s commit to the adventure.

Personal Statement

We are Vic and Lily, best friends from college and co-founders of Cape Commons. Since 2012, we have been brewing one mission: to protect and secure our global water supply. 

Water is the fundamental building block upon which life is built, but less than 1% of Earth’s water is available for our world’s growing population to share. This is why we believe the 21st century is the Century of Water. 780 million people on this planet lack access to a secure water source, 2 billion people lack access to proper sanitation, and several billion fight water scarcity each day. This crisis is only going to intensify in the coming decades and we feel it is our responsibility to start addressing it today. 

While water aid is not our shared background, it only takes one simple idea to spark a movement. Cape started on a roadtrip out West, in a spare classroom at our school, and in a small apartment we shared one summer. As students and adventurous idealists, we believe anyone can join us in this movement.

Expectations

As our project progresses, we are beginning to encounter a number of legal challenges that new beer companies face as early startups. The beer industry is intensely regulated both from a federal and state level. It is imperative that we partner with industry specialists who can guide us through this critical time in our company’s formation and make sure we are doing everything by the book. In light of this, we have established a relationship with Lehrman Beverage Law, PLLC, a DC based law firm specializing in the regulation of alcoholic beverages. It is the country’s leading experts on alcohol and beverage law.

Since we have already hired a social enterprise lawyer (Zoe Hunton, a Brown grad!) during our time spent in San Francisco last summer, we are expecting to incorporate with her, as she already familiar with our business model and our special needs as a social enterprise. However, we are still in need of advising and protection from experts within the alcohol industry.

That is why we expect our BVLF Explorer Grant to be put toward legal fees, specifically the hiring the Lehrman Group. We are in the process of signing a retainer with their law firm as they will be assisting us on taxes, trademarking, wholesaler application, contract brewing notice, labeling, formula, and packaging approval, state/federal market compliance, and other legal TTB-related services. The cost of this retainer is $500 and will go towards legal fees associated with filing a wholesaler application.

Currently, we are doing the final market research on four different styles of beer (a California Common, Belgian Pale, Continental Pale and an American Amber). Once we select which style we plan on brewing, we will then take the recipe to a contract brewer who will begin commercially producing our beer. In order to enter into a relationship with any contract brewer, we must have a wholesaler license. We hope to have signed the retainer with Lehrman Beverage Law by the end of January and have the wholesaler application submitted no later March.

Once we have established a relationship with a contract brewer and all the appropriate legal paperwork has been filed, then we will be look to commercially produce Cape Commons. 

Grant Evaluation

Since being awarded the BVLF Explorer Grant last December, Cape Commons is readying to launch publically this April. We are currently are the process of incorporating in the state of Rhode Island as Cape Commons Beer Company, LLC with our lawyer who specializes in social enterprise. Last month we selected our flagship beer style (a California Common) and since then our brewers have been working to perfect the recipe. However, before we take the final recipe to a contract brewer, we must be registered with both the state of Rhode Island and the federal TTB (the Alcohol and Tabaco Tax and Trade Bureau) as a wholesaler. Having a wholesaler license is necessary to enter into relationships with distributors and breweries we may contract with in the future.

To help navigate these and other filings, we used the BVLF grant to hire the Lehrman Group. We signed a retainer with them in January, and since then they have assisted us in forming a legal roadmap for the upcoming month. As young entrepreneurs in the beer industry, this was an absolute necessity. The Lehrman group works at a primarily federal level, specializing in TTB (the Alcohol and Tabaco Tax and Trade Bureau) related filings. Our relationship with the Lehrman Group helps to insure we don’t take any legal missteps that could greatly slow our progress, or worse, land us in trouble with market compliance.  

The upcoming months are going to be a very exciting time for us and Lehrman has provided us with a sturdy foundation on which to build. We are preparing to launch our website, company video and Kickstarter campaign in April in addition to entering the RI business plan competition. We have also begun to immerse ourselves in the Rhode Island beer scene, attending events and reaching out to local brewers.

Thank you BVLF for helping us turn a corner in our business. Check back in April for more announcements!