FLINT, MI — After taking over five years to open their doors, Flint City Hard Cider was finally open to the public—for two whole days. 

Owner Charlie Burt has been navigating the confusing waters of the pandemic response by shifting his focus by asking his audience to buy gift certificates for COVID-19 first responders.

“I know Dana Brown pretty well and heard what she’s going through being an ICU nurse at McLaren, so I personally wanted to help in any way I could, “ says Burt. “I just donated twenty $10 gift certificates out of Flint City Hard Cider out of my own deal. I didn’t post anything or anything like that. Dana ended up throwing something online and when that happened one of my friends saw the post and said they’d like to throw $100 to get more gift certificates to first responders and nurses and doctors. So, I was like, ‘Oh man. That’s a wonderful idea.’”

Burt added a “Buy a first responder a drink” button to their Square e-commerce site and in less than a week, additional donations of gift certificates for first responders got up to $180, nearly doubling his contributed effort. 

“All you do is go to our site, click the ‘Buy a first responder a drink’ button with how many drinks you want to buy, then we actually physically write out the gift certificates and get them out to a local nurse or doctor. We did the McLaren ICU so the next one we’re going to do is the Hurley ICU.”

Flint City Hard Cider went from being able to take to-go orders to temporarily shutting down. The idea is to serve first responders using their gift certificates once they’re able to open their doors again. 

“I stopped doing the to-go orders because I’d be a one-man operation and my health is my biggest concern. So is my customers’ health,” says Burt. “At the end of the week I’ll find out if I get the loans, but if not I’ll have to risk it for the biscuit, as they say. The American Dream, you know?”

Like many businesses in Genesee County, Flint City Hard Cider applied for several loans and financial aid to lackluster results.

“I’m to the point now where the federal funding that was supposed to come through either we haven’t been selected for it or the offers have been so low,” says Burt. “I got offered $800 total through the PPP program. That goes off of your 2019 payroll taxes and because I’m a new business I completely slide through the cracks. I’m kind of between a rock and a hard place.”

Burt’s goal is to offer a semblance of normalcy and a way to relax once he’s able to open his doors again to the public. He’s well aware that the downtown community has his back in the interim.

“The support of the community once again has been awesome. Especially being such a new business, people have really come out of the woodwork to try and help by buying gift certificates for themselves or for first responders and also buying t-shirts. We’re very excited to get back open. We’re still going to replan the grand opening as soon as possible. Whenever we can open up again we’ll be having live music, a food truck, and we’re ready to rock and roll.”

You can buy a first responder a drink at Flint City Hard Cider’s  e-commerce site

Jonathan Diener is a world-traveling musician, comic writer, and freelance journalist having written for Vice, Alternative Press and The Hard Times. His charitable endeavors include the music compilation...