Leif Anderson and Ryan Close are ready to open Mash Mechanix Brewing in Colorado Springs. The beer is brewed, the patio is built and their permits are in order. The two longtime friends and home brewers even have a mug club going and a supply of hats, T-shirts and stickers behind the bar.
There’s only one problem. “So many other breweries have been so helpful to us — and I really mean all of them — so we talked about what we could do to give back and to promote them, because we want them all to make it through [the pandemic]," Anderson says. "This is an industry like no other."
The answer, they decided, was to wait. “We are in a unique position. Our landlord has been awesome in working with us...and we don’t have employees to support or any fixed overhead like a lot of other breweries,” Close adds. “Since they are really struggling right now, we asked ourselves if we want to take away from the breweries that are out there, or do we want to support the breweries that we want to still be there in six months?”
Close believes that while many Colorado Springs breweries received tons of public support during the first state-mandated shutdown last spring, “they are experiencing the opposite of that now” during the latest restrictions, which were imposed in November as the number of COVID cases rose precipitously in Colorado. “People are tired; they are fatigued…and breweries are basically giving away beer just to get it out the door.”
A pair of self-described “old motorheads” who have been friends for forty years, Anderson, a middle school teacher, and Close, an IT manager, joke about how they came up driving Datsuns and Pintos, listening to Whitesnake and drinking Keystone Light. And while they still love the cars and the music, their taste in beer has “come a long way,” they say. So the two decided a few years ago to jump into professional brewing, and in October 2019 leased a 115-year-old freestanding building at 429 East Pikes Peak Avenue in downtown Colorado Springs, with the goal of providing a relaxing spot to hang out and to bring out some car culture.
With that in mind, Close says it also makes sense to wait to open until they can do so with “a bang,” giving customers the full experience they want to provide. “Breweries are a social place, so with us being new, opening now just wouldn’t be the same. Why force it if we don’t have to?”
More than thirty other breweries have opened (or are getting to open very soon) in Colorado in 2020, and all of them were faced with the tough choice or waiting and seeing as the pandemic progressed, or trying to get revenue flowing to help pay back loans or cover bills and expenses.
Close and Anderson will bide their time, possibly into March, and are encouraging people to continue to support existing breweries by buying beer, merchandise and gift cards.
“People have said to us, ‘It’s a tough time to open,’ and we say, ‘Yes, but it’s an even tougher time to be open,’” Close adds. "Breweries had to pivot into a totally different business model, a couple of times. I don’t envy their position.”