TUCSON, Ariz. — "We love you Tucson. Thank you for all the years of support."
That's the message Mike Gura, the owner of Public Brewhouse, wants to leave with his community.
After five years of serving beers at its location near Historic Fourth Avenue, this weekend was Public Brewhouse's last.
Gura says closing the location is bittersweet, but he's grateful to the Tucson community for its support over the years.
"One thing that's really struck me, as I've reflected over this COVID time is we didn't just share a space, we shared time and space," says Gura. "The original intention of this space was to build a community and create a place where anybody feels welcome."
Regulars say with its live music, trivia nights and friendly environment, Public Brewhouse succeed in doing just that.
"Bar being packed, standing room only, getting beers and just enjoying time with friends," are some of the memories Andrew Washburn says hes has from frequenting the brewery on Wednesdays.
The brewery's closing, is due largely to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gura says Public Brewhouse is a small brewery, and it wasn't able to change it's distribution model to stay profitable once having in-person patrons became a health risk. He adds that the location's lack of outdoor patio space provided another obstacle.
"When COVID hit, without the capacity to can or make money for a distribution model, it really hit us hard," says Gura. "Our whole model is based on over-the-counter sales. You take the over the counter part away, and it's just struggling to stay afloat."
But despite having to close its doors, Gura says, he's proud of the impact Public Brewhouse has had in Tucson over the past five years.
"What I've always told the bartenders and the staff is it's not about the beer we sell. It's about the experiences we create," says Gura.
That's a lesson he passed down to Ayla Katahi, who began her career at Public Brewhouse and is now Head Director of Brewing at Borderlands.
"He [Gura] said, this is part of what happens. We have these great employees and provide mentorships, and the next step is you move on and you give back to the community," says Katahi. "Leaving Public meant that I was leaving family and community. I have a deep respect and a deep love for Public Brewhouse."
While he's sad that the brewery has to close, Gura says Public Brewhouse was able to contribute to the community and history of Tucson.
"I think about the weddings that were held here, the receptions, the wakes, the people who maybe met here and are happily married, the connections people made," says Gura. "Hopefully that lead to something fruitful and positive in the world. That's all I could ask for."
There's still a chance this won't be the last you hear about Public Brewhouse. Gura says they are looking into ways to continue to share their brews with the Tucson community, and he hopes they're able to reopen again one day.
Originally posted by KGUN9 October 11, 2020
Aubrey Gelpieryn is a journalist currently in San Diego. She enjoys writing about music, politics and current events.