The great reopening: Most breweries ready for full occupancy

Remember big crowds and sitting at the actual bar? Yeah, it’s all coming back, starting today! (Photo courtesy of Mario Caldwell/Steel Bender Brewyard)

Unless you have been in a complete boycott of all things news and social media, by now you are aware that today, on this first of July, the state of New Mexico is lifting all pandemic restrictions and allowing businesses to fully reopen.

That, of course, includes our 80-plus craft breweries throughout the state, so we set out to ask as many as we could in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe metro areas as to their status going forward. Not all will welcome back crowds at 100-percent occupancy, mainly due to staffing issues, but for the most part, it will be back to business as usual for the first time since early March 2020.

We could spend a moment reflecting on what the last 15 months have been like for the breweries, but once again, Steel Bender co-owner/marketing director Shelby Chant sums it up better than we ever possibly could in her email response to our questions.

“‘Bar’s open!’ Both bar tops will be open, but with fewer stools for now. We will also be adding a few tables, but not as many as pre-COVID,” Chant wrote. 

“We will be reminding guests via signage that we still require parties to check in with the host inside (pre-COVID, the patio especially, was a free-for-all, and many would enter at the patio gates). We learned during this time that it’s much more manageable and causes less confusion for the guest to just go ahead and have a host seat tables and direct where the waiting areas are, so we’re sticking with that). The only ‘open seating’ is at the bar tops, but guests still need to check in with the host first. 

“We’ve been bringing back more menu items, almost 100 percent back to where we were, other than a few items that we’re evaluating anyway to determine their return. Definitely we’re hoping to bring back the Los Ranchos Four-Chile Burger again soon. 

“We hope to bring back music Tuesdays again in a month if not sooner. 

“Hours will stay at 11:30 to 8 p.m. for now (hope to extend to 9 p.m. in the next few weeks). The only taproom event we do have coming up is a pairing event during (the) Lavender Festival, but our managers feel confident about the scope of that one. 

“We’re taking things one purposeful step at a time, making this as seamless and low-stress as possible considering our staffing situation, which is the root cause of why we still won’t be at 100-percent capacity. Primarily in the kitchen, but FOH (front-of-house) is lean, too. Couldn’t send staff to work a festival right now if I wanted to. 

“Our entire crew, from managers to kitchen to FOH to brewery to sales, has been remarkable. They’re working so hard to keep every facet of the business going and to keep each other going. The ‘Stronger. Because we’re bending steel together.’ mantra is in our blood, especially with the staff that’s worked with us over the years, and thankfully returned when they could. I do believe we are stronger as a business and as the SBB family, there’s been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears and worry and problem-solving together.

“The local community supported local, big time. We felt it and I don’t see that going away. The generous tipping, stopping in to check on us, reviews, kindnesses. That 95 percent of our guest base made up for a tough 5 percent. We’re so grateful to have gotten through this with the community’s support. And, our local community, well, you know how I feel about that, Chris. Ours is the best in the country. Being able to touch base to see how others were handling restrictions, clever solutions, commiserating, both as a business and very personally, I don’t know how we would have gotten through this (and there are still challenges to meet) with our sanity intact (relatively) without our Guild and our friends in beer. I’m a sap, you know this …”

We are all a little sappy at times like this, Shelby. Thank you for all of that.

And now, for the rest of the breweries that responded to us. If you do not see your favorite place on here, contact them directly. We will also have a separate short story for Friday covering all the early closing times for the Fourth of July.

Bombs Away: Bombs Away Beer Company will be at full/regular capacity on the first. Nothing special planned. — John Degnaro, owner

Bosque: We are excited that the current PHO (public health order) ends (Thursday) which officially allows for bar seating. We will be taking things as they come but have been adding tables and seating over the last week in preparation for tomorrow. — Jess Griego, co-owner/chief experience officer

Brew Lab 101: We are going full bore on Thursday! We are also opening our new kitchen, “Big Boss Blue Sky Kitchen” the same day. We will still have our daily food trucks as well. Good luck, everyone! — Scott Salvas, co-owner/brewmaster

Canteen: We will be adding bar seating and have a few more tables available, which we are excited about. It will be nice not to regulate how many people sit at a table and allow people to stand as well. There will still be plenty of spacing between tables. Music is coming back! We will start doing music this Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. weekly and Sunday music will resume the following week from 4 to 7 (since the Fourth is this Sunday, we will be closing at 5 p.m., so no music). We are launching an expanded food menu today at the Brewhouse and in the coming weeks at our Taproom. All in all, we are looking forward to it. We may be a little thin staffed, so we hope everyone is patient and kind, but our staff is amazing and killing it! — Jamie Schwebach, general manager

Since Gravity Bound opened last summer, no one has ever sat at this bar. Until today.

Gravity Bound: Full bar seating for the first time over here. No big events scheduled, but we’ll make something happen soon. — Chris Frigon, co-owner/general manager

Harmon Lane Brewing at Southwest Grape and Grain: We are adding bar seating back to the bar. — Danny Harmon, co-owner/brewer

High and Dry: The hours will remain the same for a few weeks as we ease back into everything. We will be extending our evening service hours throughout the month. We have a few vacations with staff, (but) we’ve been lucky that we haven’t really had turnover. — Andrew Kalemba, co-owner/head brewer

Kaktus: At Kaktus we are just happy to be fully open, capacity wise. People love sitting at our bar top, and now that we can serve margaritas, I am sure we will only become more busy. — Dana Koller, owner

Marble: We are opening at full capacity at all locations this Thursday, which is also the Day Ghost release! We will be hosting a party at 111 for the release with live music from Day Trippers 6 to 7:20 p.m., and Sun Sounds 7:30 to 9. There will also be some giveaways and special sightings from creatures from Meow Wolf. — Geraldine Lucero, marketing and events coordinator

Nexus: We will open to a full smaller seating capacity. We do not want to go back (to) 100 percent because we feel people will not want to sit as closely as they used to. So we will open with less bar stools and a few less tables. I estimate that we will be around 85 to 90 percent. Staffing is an issue, and it has limited us from opening our community room/overflow room on Fridays and Saturdays. We just hired some new people, but so far that has been difficult, because even if you hire today that does not mean they will be with you in a month, sometimes not even within a week. So we are cautiously optimistic we open to full capacity at 90 percent permanently in about two weeks. Nothing special (planned) for Thursday. — Ken Carson, owner

Palmer: We are adding bar seating back to our original location and our Raton tap room (Gate City Craft Bar). At the OG location that is 35 percent of our capacity, so it is much needed. Old town location coming online in the next couple of weeks. — Rob Palmer, owner/brewer

Ponderosa: We won’t be full capacity, probably keep the south seating area closed, but the bar will be open! Mostly due to kitchen staff shortages, and a limited menu for a while longer. Only thing we will be doing is tapping a cask of our upcoming Saison that has been dry hopped with Contessa hops. — Antonio Fernandez, head brewer

ReSource: ReSource Brewing is business as usual, no events planned, just a strong encouragement to the public to continue washing their paws and not slobber all over each other! We are still understaffed and have decided to keep our occupancy at the current levels while we navigate a full reopening. — Shawn Wright, co-owner/head brewer

Sobremesa: 100-percent capacity, community tables will be added after holiday. Bartop is fully open, check-in with host is still required, live music every Monday, cheers. — Nicolas Giron, co-owner

Thirsty Eye: Thirsty Eye will go full capacity inside and out starting Thursday with our existing hours. Live music returns soon with Dawn Hotel scheduled for July 9. — John Kofonow, head brewer

Toltec: Due to staffing issues I don’t anticipate much change happening around here. As a result, we probably wont be doing anything special, especially since we are in another transition period (new chef). — Brandon Venaglia, head brewer

Tractor: We are opening up fully at all locations, but our kitchens at Wells Park and Los Lunas will not be reopening. We do not have a special event planned, but have music in Los Lunas on Friday, as well as an art opening that day in Nob Hill. — Jeremy Kinter, events and marketing director

Turtle Mountain: The only operational change on July 1 for Turtle Mountain — full bar seating! We’re also going to do a “turn-the-page, too-soon?, look-back-and-laugh” sale on our 2020 Oktoberfest T-shirts. $5 off ($15 sale price) while supplies last. It’s that design that you guys actually gave us a nod as “Funniest T of the Year.” — Jason Stein, bar manager

Turtle Mountain will be selling these shirts again over the weekend, as a memento of all the fun of 2020.

Santa Fe area breweries

Chile Line: We will be returning to our regular occupancy, and using our bar top after the first employees have been vaccinated are no longer required to wear masks after the First, as well as customers. — Alexander Pertusini, owner/head brewer

Rowley Farmhouse Ales: Our liquor licenses are vital to the success of our business so as always we follow the law of the land. We have followed all the limitations set forth to protect our team and our guests, and as the guidelines have loosened so have we. We look forward to being able to return to serving at our bar and enjoying the energy of a busy restaurant once again. — Jeff Kaplan, co-owner/chef

Santa Fe Brewing: The only change we are making that is different from how we currently operate is we are going to allow customers to sit at the bar throughout our five taprooms. — Brian Lock, owner

Second Street: We are already open but will be taking advantage of the increased capacity. All our staff is fully vaccinated, except for a small handful who will be masked while they wait it out to be fully vaccinated. Second Street will also allow bar service. — Rod Tweet, owner/brewmaster

We would like to thank all of the brewery staffers who responded to our email, and everyone who has responded to every single question that we have asked in the last 15 months. It has been a hell of a ride, and we are very thankful (hopeful) that it is all over.

So get on out there and continue to support local this holiday weekend.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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