Latino-owned San Diego craft brewery Border X is partnering with the Mujeres Brew Club to open a taproom location in the former Alta Brewing space, founder and CEO David Favela told Brewbound. The new taproom brewery will operate as a nonprofit with a focus on empowering women within the craft beer space.
“We want to give a space to women — and women of color — to brew and design their own beers, to decorate their own tasting room, to hold their own events, their own activities,” he said. “They will be responsible for deciding what styles of beers they want to make, and our brewers will help make it happen. We really just want to give space to see what beers they come up with.”
The facility is the brainchild of Mujeres Brew Club co-founders Carmen Favela, who is Favela’s wife, and Esthela Davila, as Beth Demmon first reported for Vinepair.
The new space, located about a two-minute drive from Border X’s Barrio Logan taproom, won’t be branded as a Border X facility though, and instead will be called Mujeres Brew House. The facility will be funded via monthly donations from beers poured in Border X’s taprooms.
The timeline for opening the new location is dependent on state and federal approvals, Favela said. If the nonprofit model proves successful, Border X may explore similar efforts in other communities, such as Los Angeles, he added.
“It’s just an extension of who we are as Border X,” he said. “We’re about serving our underserved communities. We’re about creating opportunities for everyone. And it’s still us behind the scenes.”
Favela, who opened Border X in 2014, admitted that the timing of acquiring an additional own-premise location — during the COVID-19 pandemic, which had shut down nearly all on-premise bars, restaurants and taprooms in the U.S. — was challenging. But he said the desire to move forward speaks to the company’s confidence in the women of Mujeres Brew Club.
“I have zero doubt that they’re gonna make that into a really special place,” he said.
Border X, which was built on a model of selling beer directly to consumers at its taprooms, struggled to pivot in the early days of the shutdown, Favela admitted. He described the two weeks in mid-March after closing Border X’s taprooms in San Diego and Los Angeles as a “complete free fall” as 95% of Border X’s sales were lost.
“We weren’t able to pivot,” he said. “We were canning some of our beers, but we don’t have a strong distribution network or salespeople, and we don’t have our own canner, so everything had to be mobile. And so, the cost of canning became pretty huge for each batch.”
Border X did receive relief in the form of a Paycheck Protection Program loan through the Small Business Administration, which Favela said “saved us.”
“Having the government step in and give us that lifeline, I think changed the game for us,” he said. “We actually had working capital. We could pay vendors. We could start operating like a normal business.”
Border X also generated some revenue over the last three months by delivering beer, offering to-go sales at its brewery and launching an online sales platform.
“We drove revenue — but it’s barely a fraction, I’d say less than maybe 10% of our normal revenue,” he said of the early days of the pandemic. “But we didn’t have labor expenses because it was just me and my wife, we literally had to do most of the work.”
By May, the company began to slowly reopen its taprooms. Business has begun to ramp back up in June, and the company is beginning to close in on its pre-COVID-19 numbers, Favela said.
In Los Angeles, Border X is also converting about 3,000 sq. ft. of its parking lot into a 100-person beer garden, which Favela said could put the company at about 80% to 90% of its pre-COVID-19 projections for July and August.
The goal for the rest of 2020 is to run the business at close to breakeven, while maintaining some of the company’s PPP loan in reserves. Favela added that he’s negotiated a deferred rent plan with Border X’s landlord over the life of the company’s 10-year lease. Those moves have him feeling more optimistic about the future.
Favela, who was a semi-finalist for this year’s James Beard Award for the Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional, said his nomination has also “refreshed our batteries” for making beer the Border X way.
“If you’re gonna get that name held next to yours, and people are gonna come with that expectation set really wanting that experience, you better deliver on it,” he said.