Owners of the LOCAL Brewhouse, Steve and Brenda Pitt, enjoy reopening on Wednesday with a Steve Burger and the Brewhouse chicken tacos. Amy Byres photo.

The LOCAL Brewhouse has reopened after temporarily closing for the second time since the beginning of the pandemic.

Due to the governor’s public-health order restricting indoor dining, it was not cost-effective for owner Steve Pitt to remain open from late November to mid-January.

“It is easier to cool something down than it is to heat something up, so this time is a little bit different, but I think the key word here is adapt,” Pitt said. “I know a lot of businesses and I have a lot of friends, and they are just not adapting, they are waiting for a miracle — and it’s not coming.”

Throughout the pandemic, businesses have faced uncertainty about how they will be allowed to operate. Early on, Pitt took out a Small Business Administration loan to use as a safety net through the winter.

Expecting to be open for patio service only or some percentage of indoor dining, he meant for the SBA loan to help cover unmet costs while operating through winter months. With the health-orders as they are, he used a small part of the loan to pay bills while closed, he said.
One thing Pitt has been amazed by throughout the pandemic is the amount of local support he has received.

“We get really good customer support; as long as they come in, we’ll be fine,” he said.

Reopening Wednesday, Pitt said he looked forward to seeing all his loyal customers again.

“We aren’t making record profits or anything like that, but there is no way we won’t survive,” he said.

Pitt received a grant from the City of Rio Rancho allocation of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. He was also approved for a grant from the county’s allocation of CARES funding, but Pitt does not know the amount of it yet.

The grants helped offset costs, Pitt said. He used money from the city grant to purchase heaters and three tents for The LOCAL Brewhouse’s patio.

Pitt was able to receive money from the Paycheck Protection Program and is applying for the second round of funding.

With helping small businesses and the economic recovery being a focus in the upcoming legislative session, Pitt doesn’t expect too much aid to come from the state.

The anti-donation clause in the New Mexico State Constitution prohibits the state from giving money directly to small businesses and other private entities.

To work around this clause in June, legislators took roughly $450 million out of the severance tax permanent fund and used about $400 million for small-business loans with low interest rates. This is the type of SBA loan Pitt received.

“I don’t need any more loans, because loans have to be paid back. It is funny: Someone said to me the other day, ‘You’ve done well with the grants,’ and I said, ‘I didn’t even get back what I paid them in tax last year, so it is like getting some of your tax back,’” he said.

Having a backup plan and safety net was crucial in 2020, he said, predicting the same for 2021.

“We have the vaccine and, hopefully, that will help, but this is going to take a while; this year is going to be a rough year,” he said.

When reopening the first time, he was able to rehire all of his original employees. This round, he was able to do that with the exception of a few because they went back to school, Pitt said.

“I think we have done as much as we can. Luckily, we have a large patio and can put tents out there without having to put them in the parking lot and get permission from this and permission from that,” he said.

The LOCAL Brewhouse is Pitt and his wife’s only income, he said. The first time they decided to close, they were able to receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, available to self-employed individuals.

“I reapplied for it this time and I couldn’t get it, even though I had money left in there, so that was rough. We never got anything for us to live on at all in two months, not a dollar,” he said. “It is what it is.”

While being closed, Pitt took the opportunity to renovate the bar.

“I am a carpenter by trade, so I built this whole bar. I’ve built all my bars. I didn’t hire anyone to build all that; me and my wife did it all,” he said.

To learn more about The LOCAL Brewhouse, find it on Facebook by searching “The LOCAL Brewhouse” or call 994-2007.

LOCAL Brewhouse Bartender Sara Gutierrez pours a beer from the newly assembled bar the owner built. Amy Byres photo.