Beer co-op concept comes to a head

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Business > Formation could result in some local brew

By Tris DeRoma

Heads up all you beer enthusiasts, if you’ve developed the habit of going off “the Hill” for a good brew, you should know that there’s a plan in the works to fix all that.

Steve Watts, vice president of the Los Alamos Food Co-op board of directors, said he’s currently trying to start a brewery and taproom right here in Los Alamos. Set up along the lines of the food co-op, he’s currently looking for investors as well as people who are looking to become members of the new venture.

“The co-op model gives people the idea that they can really own it as well as have a say in the business,” said Watts, adding that the co-op model has helped them raise funds for the project, since people can readily buy a share in the business.

Watts said they are offering $100 investment shares that would eventually pay a dividend, as well as various membership plans, such as a Class A full equity share for $250, which gives buyers a direct share in the business. Other membership plans include an annual membership to the co-op for $50 or an annual Class B investment share for $100.

For more information and details on each of the plans, go to losalamosbeer.coop.

Watts said if the project gets enough funding, then they will go ahead and look for a location, buy equipment and hire employees.

Watts also wanted to make it clear they are not opening a bar or a pub.

“We’re looking at a tap room, not a brew pub,” he said. “We’re looking for place where people can gather, can dispense beer and that will feature a light menu.”

Judging by the public and financial support for the project, Watts said it could become a reality in about a year and a half if things keep going on track.

The Los Alamos Beer Co-op’s website details information on how a co-op operates as well as a contact form on how to buy shares in the co-op.

According to one of their blog entries, the co-op is about halfway toward reaching its goal, and is looking to raise more funds to conduct a marketing analysis as well as create a business plan.

“So if you’re already a member, we want to thank you for your support, and if you have been thinking about joining, now is the time. If each existing member could recruit just one person to join our efforts, we would be well on our way to pouring that first pint of Los Alamos-brewed craft beer,” said a statement in the blog entry.

Their blog also claims that if the Los Alamos Beer Co-op does become a reality, the co-op will be just one of three in the country. The only other two, it said, are the Blackstar and the Flying Bike co-ops.

Blackstar Co-op, based in Austin, Texas, was started in 2010, according to Nicole Renaux the co-op’s board staff liaison and business team member.

“The reason why we decided to be a co-op is because many of the people who started the co-op came from a cooperative background,” Renaux said. “The idea was to hold onto the decision-making process and to have quality, community-owned beer.”

Though it was opened in 2010, they actually started raising funds in 2006. She said the process was surprisingly easy, because of the support the project received from the community.

“We raised over $600,000 from our investors and member investors,” Renaux said. “So it took us when we became a co-op in 2006 to September 2010 to raise those funds, build out, open our doors and hire a wait staff.”

Having a built-in community of supporters and investors has been very helpful to the business she said.

“We’re doing really well. We just got recertified we’re busy every night and we have 3,100 member-owners now.”