AUSTIN (KXAN) — Over the past generation, there might not be a worse year to launch a new restaurant or bar than 2020. Closures, reduced capacity, infection fears, and looming overhead costs are just some of the many worries for all business owners.
Hold Out Brewing in Central Austin opened its doors May 7. At the time, Travis County had 2,002 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Two months later, it has nearly 12,000. Not a recipe for success.
“You plan for many things as a new business owner and operator, I don’t think a pandemic was one of them,” Sheila Garcia, the marketing and hospitality manager at Hold Out Brewing said.
But Garcia said they had no choice but to open with bills piling up. The brewery had to pay rent, pay staff and sell beer crafted before the pandemic.
While thousands of Austin businesses and nonprofits are able to apply for aid like the one the city is making available starting on Tuesday, Hold Out Brewing could not. It did not qualify because it was less than two years old.
Still, Garcia says Hold Out Brewing is a pandemic success story, largely due to the local beer community.
“We sold out,” Garcia explained about opening weekend. “Our original opening weekend we were supposed to be open Thursday through Sunday and we sold out on Saturday.”
It’s that kind of local support city leaders hope will keep the economy alive.
“We have to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to support them and ensure that when we get out of this pandemic that our most beloved and culturally significant businesses are still there,” Jimmy Flannigan, Austin’s District 6 City Council Member said.
For Hold Out Brewing, Garcia said business isn’t perfect and a lot of their earning potential remains untapped.
“We want to show the inside of our taprooms, we want to let you walk by our tanks but until that is safe indoor is only for staff, so hopefully we can just continue to provide amazing food, beer and service,” she said.
Hold Out Brewing is able to stay open when some breweries can’t because it has a full menu and makes most of its money off food.
Even though things are tough for them, Garcia said they realize others are in a worse position, and they want to give back.
They are donating the money they make from merchandise sales to a different charity every month. In May, they were able to donate $800 to the Central Texas Food Bank. Last month, they teamed up with other Hang Twenty restaurants to donate $6,500 to the Austin Justice Coalition. This month, proceeds will go to TreeFolks — a nonprofit that encourages people to plant and maintain trees to help the environment.