Was it something I wrote?
After all, when I took over the ‘Dine Savannah’ column back in March, my first article was about the grand opening of Brewed, the bright and unique draft beer bar across the street from Cotton & Rye in the Thomas Square neighborhood.Get Savannah arts and culture news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our morning, afternoon and dining newsletters
Four spring months after it opened, Brewed closed, and for two solid months this summer, its doors were shut and locked and its interior darkened. Serving craft draft beers, sandwiches, and lite bites from March through June, Brewed poured nary a drop for all of July and August and very much cut the figure of a place that would never reopen.
Every time I drove or rode my bike up Habersham, I could not help but feel a little rueful that the first place I had written about had already gone under.
Somewhat unexpectedly, new Facebook postings appeared in late August, the first since June 30, and advertised a “relaunch” of the neighborhood bar.
Seemingly from its own coffee grounds, Brewed rose anew, and the crowd gathered in its cozy confines this past Friday night belied the fact that this place had ever been closed for business. Before seven o’clock, dozens of over-twenty-one-somethings nearly filled the space and created a super-mellow alt-bar ambience as they started their weekends with a beer, a sandwich, and some live acoustic music.
I am not a bar guy, but if I could tailor a bar crowd and vibe, this would be the ideal pattern. Even though my wife and I were double the age of everyone there, we were comfortable in the mix of Brewed’s neighbors and SCAD students from all over the planet who had gathered to have some drinks and to talk placidly to each other between music sets: a perfect blend of chill and lively.
Now in its second month back open, Brewed’s hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily with special early openings on tap (pun totally intended) for title tilts in the English Premier League that have early morning kickoffs. The majority of the establishment’s focus, fittings, and fixtures are the same, namely the sixteen custom colorful cooler-fed taps that offer signature craft beer selections, the Liverpool F.C. flag, and the house-made pimento and Obatzda cheese spreads.
Some things have changed: more ‘dad’ beers in a can, a pared-down menu, and the fact that Brewed’s co-founders, Douglas Galloway and Amy Livingood, are now partners in only the business sense. “It’s not an uncommon story,” Galloway said this past Friday afternoon as we sat at Brewed’s front bar, rather recreating the first time we met.
“Opening this place, spending a year putting all that work into it, there is a lot of toll and stress,” he candidly and bravely disclosed, “and it took a toll on our personal relationship.” He said that they had “to take a minute to re-evaluate that” as well as all of the back-of-the-house logistics of the brasserie-esque corner bar.
Livingood remains a silent partner in Brewed and is focused on the business’s operations, while Galloway is its ‘new’ in-house on-site management.
Opening a restaurant, and then keeping it open, has to rank right up there with air traffic control and forest firefighter for Most Stressful Vocational Undertakings. You want proof? How about five seasons of Gordon Ramsay’s "Kitchen Nightmares" on the BBC plus seven more on Fox and more than 170 episodes of Robert Irvine’s "Restaurant: Impossible," the vast majority of which have counseled caterwauling couples and fractious families, all clearly out of their depths, their minds, or both.
Sometimes, a restaurant’s struggles to ‘make it’ have little to do with its location, its menu and prices, the quality of its food, or even its service. The restaurant landscape is littered with proprietors who have as much difficulty managing their personal lives as they do a staff and the books.
“It’s the dynamics,” Galloway and I said in unison.
You cannot spell ‘livelihood’ without ‘live’, and that is what portends so many restaurant closings: lives inextricably subvert the livelihood. No one embarks on this high-financial-risk adventure hankering for the secret ingredient of personal relationship stress, but split happens.
“You go into something like this, and the stress and just the effort of doing that put a strain on personal relationships, business partner relationships,” Galloway added. “I think that’s a big reason why people fail or change direction.”
Though closed for those two summer months, the work continued behind the proverbial scenes for Brewed’s co-owners, both of whom were uncertain if the bar would reopen but who spent those weeks figuring out ways to make the venture viable. “We were trying to decide who was going to take over [Brewed],” Galloway explained, “but this is definitely more my animal to tackle. It just took us a while to figure that out.”
“A big part of it,” he added, referring to the time Brewed was closed, “was just really revamping, taking that time, after having those months open, to figure out what worked [and] what didn’t.”
For the daily diner, the menu is only slightly different. Whereas the original menu was filled with ‘build-your-owns’, which proved difficult to manage in that so many orders were one-off custom plates, the revised slate features seven sandwiches that offer plenty of variety while utilizing many shared ingredients, meaning less food waste.
“We streamlined it down to several sandwiches,” Galloway explained, “still with the same base, getting our bread from Auspicious, still making our in-house cheese spreads. It’s a little bit simpler menu but still hitting all those things.” Because it was solid and satisfying, the carefully catered beverage program is also largely unchanged, headlined by those sixteen regional crafts on tap. The ‘dad’ beer selection has extended to include more than a half-dozen options, including Coors Banquet, Narragansett, PBR, and some random crafts cans. Joining the Bloody Miyagi and Michelada - respectively, a sake-based and a beer-based bloody Mary - on the creative drink menu are fermented shots, similar to the idea of a mocktail and flavored with either cinnamon, whiskey, or tequila.
Then again, the actual food and beverage were not the hard decisions that had to be made to reopen Brewed. “I think this may be true for any type of business,” Galloway said, reflecting on the last year-plus, “but if you knew everything going into it, you wouldn’t do it. You’d back off. You’d be overwhelmed.”
"But it was good,” he conceded, more than a little wistfully, about these last two months of Brewed’s evolution, “because, in the end of it, it made us reevaluate a lot of things to come back with the business better than ever.”
On Sunday at noon, the front door and all of the gorgeous windows were open, letting in the cool October breeze and letting out the occasional cheers and groans from fifteen folks fixed on the Liverpool-ManU match. For Galloway, it was a great day to be behind the bar at Brewed and standing alongside it with his customers, especially once Adam Lallana scored in the 85th minute to knot the match at ones. Galloway ran over to hug a fellow Liverpool fan.
Sometimes, you win. Sometimes, you lose. Sometimes, you shut your bar down for two months to figure out how no one comes out on the losing end. “We’ve still got a ways to go building it back up,” said Galloway, “but each week has been better than the last.”