Black Star Co-op, Austin’s cooperatively-owned and run brewpub, is struggling with low sales. In order to help combat that, the board sent out an email urging its members to ramp up business by ordering beers, burgers, and other pub food.
Lawrence Watson (who is part of Black’s business team, marketing, and worker development) and the team noticed a major drop in sales for the past four months, something the co-op never experienced before. January is usually a good month for Black Star, so the news was unexpected. “We were unsure if the sales were an aberration or an indication of a new norm,” he told Eater, which lead to the email. Read the full note below.
Why is Black Star’s sales in decline? Watson pointed to the increasing number of restaurants and bars opening in the city, coupled with a general sales slump across Texas.
After the letter was sent out to Black Star’s members and posted on Reddit yesterday, the response has been positive. “We’ve received an abundance of support from people and businesses around Austin,” said Watson.
If the tide doesn’t turn, Watson anticipates a major change, but is unsure of what that will entail. “It will look quite different than it does now,” he did say.
Update, January 10: After its call for customers, Black Star's sales have skyrocketed, along with many donations and new members, which means the pub is safe for now.
Black Star prides itself on paying its staffers living wages (no need for tips) since it opened in 2010. There are over 3,300 members involved. It recently vowed to serve as a sanctuary restaurant, free from harassment.
Black Star Co-op’s Email
Black Star Co-op can't exist without the support of its Member-Owners. That was true in the beginning, when the co-op was just a dream, and it's true now.
In the face of historically slow sales, Black Star Co-op is experience a cash flow crisis that immediately threatens the business. If sales continue on as they are now, we could close our doors by the end of the month. The workers have done all they can to staunch the bleeding: cut wages, froze wages, pared down employee benefits, and performed layoffs. To ask for further sacrifices from our workers would challenge the co-op's very identity.
That's why we need your help. Your patronage is what will preserve the co-op through this time of uncertainty. Right now, Member-Owner patronage only accounts for 6% of our gross monthly sales. If our values are still your values, please show your support by patronizing our brewpub — it's now or never. We are a business that purchases local ingredients, has a nearly invisible carbon footprint, and pays its workers a living wage. Those are our values and our values are what's at stake.
Black Star was built by its community of Member-Owners, and it's our Member-Owners that will sustain us. So grab some friends and come in for a beer and some food. If you have a good time, please come in again — sooner rather than later. We're counting on you.