I recently pinned down Rob Palmer for a short Zoom interview for the Look Back/Look Ahead Series. I have to admit, it is difficult for me to start these interviews. It’s basically just such a crappy time for everyone and it’s hard to know what to even say. It’s also hard to end these interviews because I seem to get emotional signing off when I miss seeing everyone so much. The brewing industry in this town is such a caring, tight-knit community. Even seeing these folks inside the breweries when I interview them is tough, since we can’t be inside there with them!
When I last caught up with Rob, things were really rolling. They were in the process of opening up two offsite taprooms along with partner Left Turn Distilling. Imagine getting ready to open two new places (one up north in Raton, and one in Old Town Albuquerque) almost simultaneously — and then getting hit with a pandemic and shutdown. I asked Rob what the status was of both new locations when the shutdown order first came in March.
Rob said the Raton location, the Gate City Craft Bar, had just opened about a week prior to the first shutdown. Currently, they cannot keep it open at 25-percent outdoor occupancy because it is too cold this time of year up there. So, although it opened in March, it is not currently open. Rob sent me some pictures of the Raton site, and it looks stunning. Now I am really heartbroken I cannot go there right now. They are still working on getting the Old Town location ready; they are slowly moving forward, he said. Something that isn’t talked about enough is how everything takes so much longer for permits, inspections, and more during this time. That’s tough on businesses as well.
As far as the original Albuquerque location goes, being open on the small patio they built this year at only at 25-percent just does not make sense for them. On their patio, that would mean the capacity is 12 people. Because Palmer is also housed with a distillery, the labor aspect of two bartenders making drinks and stocking all the garnishes, mixers, etc., is not a logical move. For now, it’s mostly just Rob who is working on the brewery side.
According to Rob, to-go sales are not as good now as they were during the first shutdown. They are doing to-go sales of both beer and liquor on Wednesdays and Fridays only, from 4 to 8 p.m. Rob said he is staffing pickups himself, partly to control labor costs, and largely because he wants to see everyone that comes in. He said he misses all the customers. The rest of the time, he continues to brew. Rob has a couple of new beers — a lager that is out now, and an imperial stout that will debut after the first of the year.
For those interested, Left Turn also does pre-orders of fun cocktail kits to pick up in Albuquerque during those above-listed times. Rob said that Miranda Chavez, bartender extraordinaire, builds all the kits. You can check them out on their Facebook page. Each kit includes everything you need — even glassware, bar towel, and recipes. I think they are just too adorable.
Of course, it’s too hard to know what the current year will bring. Hopefully everything will reopen at some point in 2021, including both of the new Palmer/Left Turn locations. In the meantime, please support local and get to-go orders, if, and whenever possible. We can all also do our part to help keep each other safe and move out of the “red zone” status toward reopening. Rob’s final message to all of our readers is to appreciate the people around you. A good lesson.
Cheers to a better New Year!