WACO, Texas — A group of seven Waco bars and breweries are working together to save their businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Barnett's Public House, Brotherwell Brewery, Bare Arms Brewing, Dancing Bear Pub, Waco Ale Company, Truelove Bar and Southern Roots Brewing Company formed Craft Waco to "allow bars and breweries to continue to grow their craft during the pandemic."
The group has created an online fundraiser aimed at bridging the income gap created by the pandemic. They plan to split the funds evenly between the participating businesses.
Under an executive order from Governor Greg Abbott, bars and breweries must remain closed to customers inside their buildings. Several currently offer to-go drinks, but the revenue stream pales in comparison to their typical sales.
"We can still sell to-go orders," said Kevin Yackley, owner of Bare Arms Brewing. "But having people in the community coming into our places and socializing together, that's been a hit as well."
Local breweries are a new trend in Central Texas. Bare Arms is the oldest brewery represented in Craft Waco, but it has only existed for five years. Waco Ale Co. celebrates its one-year anniversary this weekend.
"We had big aspirations and plans for this place," Brett Stewart, owner of Waco Ale Co., said. "And then COVID-19 and all the ordinances that have been passed out have sort of dealt a blow to those."
Stewart said his business has been doubly affected by the pandemic. Not only can he not open his own bar to customers, but other local pubs, like Barnett's are unable to purchase his beer.
"It's a big challenge," he said.
Craft Waco brings together competitors in the craft beer business as they fight to keep the industry alive.
"I like to say the rising tide lifts all boats, and by coming together, we can help build the tide," Yackley said.
Beyond asking for donations, Craft Waco is urging supporters to call their state representatives and urge them to overturn the executive order requiring bars and breweries to remain closed. They say that is the only way they will truly be able to rebound from the pandemic.
"You ramp up enforcement, and you shut down the places that aren't [following guidelines,]" Stewart said. "And you let everybody else stay open."
Owners said they hope to put together some community events to feature their businesses and continue to push the government to allow them to reopen.