Downtown brewpub closes for final time
Brew it Up! closed for the final time Sunday, and owner Mike Costello said it underscores a concept that is too often overlooked: If you like a business, patronize it.
Sales at the brewpub took a substantial hit in late 2008, Costello said, and the restaurant – that also offered individual brewing – never recovered.
“If we stayed flat at our 2008 sales, we’d be surviving,” he said. “If you find a business you like, you’ve got to support it.”
The business announced Friday on its website that it would be closing, attributing the shutdown to the economy.
“I’m not blaming anybody,” Costello said Saturday afternoon at one of the tables near the bar as customers came in to grab their last brews and meal at the restaurant. It operated in Davis for seven years before moving to 14th and H streets in Sacramento eight years ago.
“We made good decisions, and we made some bad decisions,” he said. “Couple that with some very substantial hits in sales that came right around the time of state worker furloughs. It was impossible to catch up.”
Costello said he saw the need to close coming, and added, “The decision to close was made for me earlier this week,” declining to go into detail.
For the 55-60 employees who worked for the company, the news came as a surprise.
“It’s not something I expected,” said Head Brewer Raul Munoz, 34. “Most employees don’t pay attention to the behind-the-scenes stuff. We just look out here (in the restaurant), and we’re busy.”
Munoz said the workers will now probably just go their separate ways.
“It’s a state of surrealness,” he said. “I’ve got a cloudy head. It was a really great job, and I was well-compensated. I don’t know if I’ll find anything better.”
Munoz, who worked at Brew it Up! for six years, said the customer reaction was mixed, with longtime customers coming in for the last time seeming depressed, while others – who bought a recent Groupon for brewing their own beer – were upset to find out the the business would not honor the coupon.
“We’re catching a lot of flak,” Costello said. “They’re upset, and rightly so.”
He added that the only reason he kept the restaurant open through the weekend was in an effort to make payroll.
“That was my pledge to the crew,” he said. “Every single employee showed up. Not a single one bailed out.”
He added that several of his serving staff – which receives tips – approached him and asked that the kitchen staff – which does not receive tips – be given first priority when it came to paying wages.
Kristen Weingart, a 23-year-old bartender, said the final three days the business was open allowed her to say goodbye to her coworkers as well as the regular customers she has gotten to know over the past three and a half years.
“So much of this job is a part of me,” she said. “Mike was a great boss. He was really kind, and he may have lost his business, but he gained a family. I’m going to miss that.”
Weingart said she knew the business wasn’t doing very well, but she was still surprised when the announcement came Friday morning.
Customers leaving Brew it Up! Saturday said they were sad to see the business go.
“I used to come down here a lot,” said Sheri Adam, 48. “I started working farther away and didn’t make it in as much. I’m really going to miss their sandwiches and beer, and the people are really nice.”
Ron Liles, a 65-year-old Woodland resident, said he came down one last time to meet his son for lunch.
“This is just this silly economy we’re in,” he said. “Storefronts everywhere are closed up.”
He said he will miss the atmosphere and the people the most, and he enjoyed brewing his own beer with his son in the past.
Costello said he doesn’t have any immediate plans to open another business at the moment, but it’s not something he is ruling out.
If he does go into business again, he said he will work in a partnership with others.
“There are a lot of things about the concept that work,” he said. “There are some things I would change, and I’m just sad to see it didn’t work out.”
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.