Masks worn or vaccination status proven is the standard set by Greater Purpose Brewing Company.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Local Business

Greater Purpose, indeed: Eastside brewery focuses on Santa Cruzans’ safety via vaccine proof, pop-up clinic

As of July 27, Greater Purpose Brewing Company decided to require proof of vaccination to enter the building and to be allowed to sit inside. This weekend it will take matters a step further when it hosts a pop-up vaccine clinic that offers a free pint to anyone who gets jabbed.

Greater Purpose Brewing Company didn’t get its name at random. And even though it was formed on the basis of community giveback, it took a pandemic to show just how much a single individual business can take a purposeful stand.

That’s why as of July 27, the brewery decided to require proof of vaccination to enter the building and to be allowed to sit inside. This weekend it will take matters a step further when it hosts a pop-up vaccine clinic that offers a free pint to anyone who gets jabbed.

“When you love the community, the community loves you back,” reasons Greater Purpose’s main caretaker, MacKendree VanHall.

MacKendree VanHall outside Greater Purpose Brewing Company.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

As I entered this week, masked and flustered as per usual, it was VanHall who ran over, smiling, and ushered through the proper protocol.

“Grace, right? I’m just going to take you over here.”

VanHall took me back to the brewery’s entrance, where I had my temperature checked via a contactless digital scanner, and my vaccination card and ID were checked.

Once everything was accounted for, I could remove my mask — an additional two minutes that provided a greater sense of assurance for other customers and the staff.

VanHall thinks this approach will help alleviate the continued pandemic stresses for the Greater Purpose community and beyond. (One other notable Santa Cruz establishment announced its plans to check proof of vaccination on Thursday.)

“It was a rough ride,” said VanHall, who previously went by Christopher. “But things are finally starting to look up, and we’re excited about that.”

Temp check
A customer has their temperature check before entering Greater Purpose.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

* * *

The journey to this point hasn’t exactly been easy for Greater Purpose. The brewery — under the auspices of the local Greater Purpose Community Church — was originally slated to open in June 2018, with its sights set on the old Logos bookstore downtown.

But the team ran into plumbing complications that would have cost over $1.4 million to fix for the brewing process, and it was back to the drawing board. Fortunately, a solution presented itself.

“When we announced this to our congregation, one of our congregants — who we named a beer after, Miss Molly’s — knew the owner of East Cliff [Brewing Company],” VanHall says — and, fortuitously, ECBC owner James Hrica had been hoping to connect with a business that would focus on English style recipes, which had always been in the plans for Greater Purpose.

After meeting with Hrica and jumping through all the hurdles to complete the purchase, VanHall and the rest of the Greater Purpose team were excited to get their long-awaited dream in motion. Yet just three hours after the paperwork was finalized, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced stay-at-home orders for California.

“We couldn’t find an escrow officer for six months, and it took an additional two months to complete that process,” VanHall says.

Pulling the handle at Greater Purpose.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Over that time, VanHall and the board worked to open as quickly and safely as they could, ultimately opening their doors for takeout can and bottle service in early November 2020.

From the start, most of the brewery’s sales were from to-go orders. As VanHall says, many customers were hesitant about going out at all, due to both the pandemic and to financial constraints. Yet the desire to lift up the business was there, which helped the team keep going.

“For us, we used the time as an opportunity to make the business well-equipped for when restrictions were lifted,” VanHall says. “Let’s use this downtime as an opportunity to set our business up for success.”

The staff put together a spacious outdoor beer garden with distanced tables and a family area with games for all age groups. They’ve also incorporated a rotating food truck cohort, with S&B, Scrumptious Fish & Chips and Dos Hermanos making the rounds. Comedy show Fridays with local aficionado DNA have been a hit.

Since the vaccine rollout has allowed more customers to come out, Greater Purpose has focused heavily on its main mission: to donate upward of 30% of proceeds to local charities. Customers can vote for how they want the brewery to divvy up money via wooden coins and boxes for each charity, with Greater Purpose committing to donate a minimum of $300 each to the organizations monthly.

“Thus far, we’re giving away much more than 30% — we’re probably giving away 70 or 80%,” VanHall says. “That was the whole reason we started this organization.”

The outside area at Greater Purpose.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

* * *

Nearly a year out from its original opening date — and more than three years since the plans were first put in motion — Greater Purpose is giving back while continuing to create a safe space for locals.

The brewery calendar is stacked with community events, from Pride Pint Mondays and karaoke to Sunday afternoon spiritual meetings. Last weekend the staff hosted an event to raise money to help restore the downtown Black Lives Matter mural, drawing in nearly $900 for NAACP Santa Cruz County.

This Saturday, the team will also help get out more vaccines to Santa Cruzans. VanHall was approached by a group of medical professionals who have dubbed themselves the “Crush COVID” group, and their team will host a pop-up clinic at the beer garden from 2-5 p.m. Saturday, with the added bonus of a free pint with vaccination.

“If more businesses are brave enough to enact vaccination policies, it’s going to encourage a larger percentage of the populace who’s on the fence to get vaccinated, and that’s our target,” VanHall says.

VanHall hopes the partnership with Crush COVID will continue, and allow those who haven’t thus far had the opportunity or means to get vaccinated another option to do so.

VanHall says Greater Purpose has encountered some bad actors as it tries to enforce its vaccine mandates — something that’s just a piece of the pushback the brewery has seen, including against signage promoting gender inclusion, LGBTQ+ rights, and fighting intolerance.

Ultimately though, Greater Purpose’s social stances have received a positive reception from the majority of its clientele.

Said VanHall: “We’re building clientele that’s a cohort of people who believe in compassion and social justice and charity.”

“We’re building clientele that’s a cohort of people who believe in compassion and social justice and charity.”

(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

* * *

Moving forward, VanHall and team will continue to do all they can to bring vaccine awareness and progressive idealism to the forefront of the business. The church that owns the brewery is open to members of all faiths, with VanHall identifying as an agnostic-leaning atheist.

The brewery also ensures fair wages for its employees — starting staff at $20 per hour plus tips — and hopes that model will encourage other businesses to do the same.


Greater Purpose hosts, Crush COVID jabs

Fifteen semi-retired medical professionals who banded together under the “Crush COVID” moniker will host a vaccination clinic from 2-5 p.m. Saturday at Greater Purpose Brewing Company, 21517 E Cliff Dr in Santa Cruz. Get a vaccine at the event, and you also receive a free beer.

The church has recently decided to go 100% digital — though that doesn’t necessarily work for the centuries-old brewing process itself, VanHall jokes. And that’s all the better for the continued growth of the community surrounding Greater Purpose.

“I want to see people encouraged to think creatively, and how they can serve their community using the systems that are in place,” they said. “If we could create a business where people don’t have to choose between leisure and charity, I think we’ve done the community a service.”