Cafe Society

Oskar Blues helps the Lyons and Longmont communities with Can'd Aid Foundation

Kiernan Maletsky's cover story, "Rock On," focuses on the town of Lyons and the music scene's efforts to recover from last fall's devastating floods. Oskar Blues has played an instrumental role -- not only in the economic growth of Lyons, but in the recovery efforts there and in Longmont. Here's a little more detail on what the brewing and restaurant company has done in addition to supporting the music community through financial assistance, events and venues.

See also: Photos: Planet Bluegrass before, during and after the worst flood in Colorado's history

[jump] In the days immediately after the September floods, Oskar Blues set up a crowdfunding effort on to raise money for relief efforts. Within days it became apparent that they would need a bigger boat, so to speak, to contain the generosity of donors sending money from Colorado and across the country. To that end, Oskar Blues set up the Can'd Aid Foundation to collect and distribute donations to businesses and individuals in need of assistance to get back on their feet.

The initial goal through the end of 2013 was to "get money into peoples' hands immediately, without a lot of bureaucratic red tape," according to Oskar Blues spokesman Chad Melis. "We wanted to keep the (Can'd Aid) account at zero" by distributing the money as quickly as it came in.

Among the recipients of small-business grants were Wayne Anderson's Spirit Hound Distillers and Lyons Fork restaurant, the renowned Black Bear Inn operated for more than thirty years by Annalise and Hans Wyppler, and Two Rivers, a snack company headquartered in Lyons. Can'd Aid wasn't just concerned with small businesses; it also supplied a custom-built bicycle for bike commuter Patrick Lee, who lost two bicycles -- his only mode of transportation -- to the raging flood waters.

Other fundraisers -- including one hosted by national act OneRepublic and local favorites the Infamous Stringdusters and matched by Oskar Blues -- helped provide additional funds. At Oskar Blues restaurants, a portion of beer sales generated an additional $275,000, and founder Dale Katechis wrote a personal check for $125,000. In total, says Melis, the foundation provided flood relief for 55 small businesses, 236 individuals and families, and five organizations by the end of 2013.

An outpouring of national support from beer drinkers, distributors and the brewing community from the brewery's 37-state distribution area have helped raise over $1.3 million as of July 1, with $700,000 distributed so far. That generosity has allowed Can'd Aid to branch out beyond disaster relief, according to Melis. Recent efforts include a joint effort with the Colorado Rockies to help rebuild youth baseball fields around Lyons and Longmont. Other important efforts include helping the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance improve damaged bike trails and access routes, and supporting music programs to get musical instruments into the hand of kids.

Melis mentions that the one-year anniversary of the floods is coming up on September 13 and that Oskar Blues is planning events to commemorate the event and celebrate the recovery. While details have yet to be solidified, Melis suggests coming to Lyons to support the bars, restaurants and businesses that have persevered through a difficult year.

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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation