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Drawback turns into advantage for Belton brewpub

Posted at 6:24 PM, Sep 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-01 19:45:19-04

BELTON, TX — Bars and brewpubs have started to fight an uphill battle in their struggle to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Some businesses have resorted to unusual tactics to get their point across, but one Belton spot has succeeded because it learned to roll with the punches.

In the fight over reopening bars and other Texas drinking establishments, Bold Republic Brewing serves as a prime example of how lots of watering holes can get back in the game.

In business they say adapt or die. John Patrick Hodges' beer brewing experiments in his parents' garage turned from a hobby to a vocation.

However, his business plan was almost derailed when he learned Belton doesn't really favor drinking establishments. The City did, however, allow restaurants to sell brew, so Hodges adapted and opened Bold Republic Brewing.

"We never really knew the food side. We're not restaurateurs, we were brewers. We decided to go ahead and embrace the kitchen," he said.

He found that food helped boost beer sales, more than he'd ever dreamed.

He'd offered beer-to-go and even sold several dozen cans a week, then everyone's business plan came crashing to earth when the COVID-19 hit.

To-go service kept him open, barely.

"Once it changed, the pandemic hit, we started putting about 1,200 cans a week through our canner, and it was really amazing the community response was so great," said Hodges.

He eventually opened back up, as his restaurant classification allowed.

Now, as bars and other brewpubs fight it out in court, and one Austin area brewer prints the governor's phone number on every can, Hodges has begun making money again gradually by adapting more with table service at fewer tables.

"To keep people at their table, we use to-go cups so we're not washing glassware. We've been using gloves," he explained.

Hodges is not getting rich, but he keeps nine people employed and pays the bills. That's more than the other guys can do right now.

Making a bold statement that adapt or die is a real thing.

"We were fortunate that we were already licensed basically as a restaurant. We have a blue gun sign on our door, where a lot of bars have red gun signs," Hodges explained.

Being forced into opening a restaurant that serves beer has served Hodges well, better than being a beer maker that serves not much else.

So a twist of fate and a family-friendly business plan gave Bold Republic an edge during a pandemic that's given very few businesses any advantage at all.