Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay brewery eyes child-care expansion to help community

A Thunder Bay, Ont., brewery that opened its own daycare for staff last year says it's now planning an additional facility that would put child care on tap for the broader community as well. 

Company brewing up plans for licensed facility, 'passion project' is in addition to in-house daycare

Sleeping Giant Brewing Company's daycare is in the company's Barrel House, which is close to its main building. (Sleeping Giant Brewing Company/Provided)

A Thunder Bay brewery that opened its own daycare for staff last year says it's now planning a facility that would put child care on tap for the broader community as well.

Sleeping Giant Brewing Company launched an unlicensed, in-house child-care service last fall, in response to a lack of options for staff dealing with pandemic shutdowns.

Now, less than a year after taking that leap, Sleeping Giant plans to open a licensed facility that will offer 39 daycare spots, said brewery owner Andrea Mulligan.

"It's definitely a passion project," said Mulligan, who also has a background in early childhood education.

She said while the brewery had plans to eventually license its in-house facility, when an opportunity came up to instead open a second centre, it seized it, "because the need is there." 

Sleeping Giant is "in the position to do this, and to take these risks, and we also have the knowledge, and the people and resources behind us to be able to support a project like this, and to do it hopefully quite quickly. So it's pretty exciting."

Hopes to open daycare by July

The Ministry of Education website states that in Ontario, child-care centres with more than five children require a licence. The brewery's current in-house daycare falls below that threshold. 

The licensing process for the new facility is currently underway, Mulligan said, and a space on Grey Street is being renovated to house the facility, with hopes of opening it by July 1. 

Andrea Mulligan of Sleeping Giant said watching 'brewery babies' thrive in the unlicensed daycare spurred the company's plans to launch a separate licensed facility. (Sleeping Giant Brewing Company/Provided)

As a local company that felt the need to address child-care needs, Mulligan said, she was also pleased to see the federal government address it in this week's budget, and hopes Ottawa follows through on its plan for a national child-care plan.

While the pandemic has exacerbated the need for better supports for parents — and working mothers in particular – she said the problem has been around for a long time. 

"I just think it's important to highlight that there's an issue and that women are ... the ones negatively affected, having to stay home, put their careers on hold," said Mulligan. 

"When women don't work, our economy doesn't thrive in the same fashion that it would if women were working and contributing to the workforce."