Pub culture is alive and well in North Texas, largely due to the modern craft beer movement. From the shortened phrase public house, a neighborhood pub can become a center of social activity and collaboration for a variety of demographics. People gather for food, drink, and entertainment, for a common meeting place of friends and families, and a pub can become a critical commercial player in some areas. Relationships are built and sustained through the shared and comfortable space a pub provides.
But what happens when a beloved pub is gone?
North Texas lost three critically influential craft beer pubs last year. Businesses succeed and fail for any number of reasons, not all of which may be apparent to either customers or owners. Some fail due to mistakes of management, or through greater economic forces beyond sales and profit. Untenable lease or rent expenses are often cited reasons for closure, with property costs appreciating dramatically in developing areas. Sometimes, the financial failures are neither simple nor clear.
Pubs differ from other commercial ventures because of the product they ultimately sell. Food can be purchased at any restaurant; alcohol is available through many sources; entertainment venues thrive on their own. The product that a pub provides is its environment: a common space for gathering and socializing. This makes a pub very personal to its patrons, and not a simple commodity available online or from any retailer in a suburban strip mall. People form relationships in their respective pubs, as well as relationships with their pubs.
Pubs have a lifetime, much like any other living, breathing thing.
The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium announced they were closing their Addison location on December 31st after 25 years, a space second only to their original store in downtown Fort Worth. Official reasons given were related to a downturn in revenue due to pandemic fears and restrictions, and complications from the city of Addison with constructing additional patio space at this site. However, it is likely that this location has been unaffordable for years as the Village on the Parkway has fully developed, including direct competitors such as Whole Foods Market, Sherlock’s, and Yard House only steps away from the Saucer’s front door.
Nevertheless, with its business model in place and replicated across the Metroplex and Texas, the Flying Saucer Johnny-Appleseeded craft beer culture through the early days of its economic establishment. It may have been commercial and formulaic to a degree, but it taught a pub-less Southwestern population how to be a pub. It built a community around its patrons and employees with customer perks, loyalty programs, and craft beer festivals. Few people in today’s North Texas beer market cannot trace their first craft beer experience to one of the local Saucers.
Closing after initial health and safety restrictions were enacted last March, the Ginger Man never reopened and somewhat unceremoniously called it quits last October after 28 years in its historic Uptown Dallas house. This creaky, wood-paneled craft beer pub struggled with irritating (but not fatal) corporate management issues for years, having watched so many other businesses rise and fall around it as the area churned with nightlife. News of its shuttering was the least surprising of all, as the entire city block that included the terminally ill pub has long been slated for high-rise development.*
Even before the age of the coronavirus, successful bars and pubs were not immune as The Common Table called it quits in Dallas last January after 10 years, opting out of a lease renewal because of growing issues with their physical structure. Even though this closure was more by measured yet difficult choice than those of either the Saucer or Ginger Man, it would also likely have been an unavoidable outcome given the same expanding area of Uptown that forced so many similar businesses out. (Fortunately, their satellite location in The Star complex in Frisco survives to carry on the necessary Pondification.)
Perhaps no space did more to establish and grow the local craft beer culture in Dallas than The Common Table. From individual and personal relationships with local, state, and national brewers along with a select local music and entertainment scene, TCT grew a beer culture on its patio like weeds in fertile soil. Beer-pairing dinners, craft brewing celebrities, special releases, and private bottle shares—all well ahead of any commercial trends—created a North Texas crossroads that inspired and spawned more than a few local commercial brewers.
Each of these places teaches us one thing: Pubs have a lifetime, much like any other living, breathing thing. They are born, prosper, eventually fade, and inevitably die. Some may live for years or decades, or in rare cases a century or more but, like us, they are creatures of a limited existence. Certainly, their loss is not nearly equivalent to a family member or beloved pet, but it should be recognized as a loss nonetheless. We must appreciate them for their allotted time, and enjoy their memories when they are no more.
* It physically pains me to write these words, having spent so much time over the years (both business and pleasure) within the walls of the Dallas Ginger Man. That charming, quirky historic residence-turned-pub full of personal ghosts, memories, and experiences meeting the bulldozer is a thought I would like to avoid.