A Tragic Story of Naked Twister and a Closed Brewpub

Eno Sarris, September 23, 2014

I once had the impetus to start a brewery incubator. I figured, with all the home brewers around me in Northern California, it would be easy to get a few great semi-pro and home-brewers to put some beer together in a shared space. It would fit in the long history of co-working and co-operation intrisic to the hippie foundations of the area. We could even use language borrowed from local startup incubators. We could even house some of the same people as those incubators. We'd call it The Beer Co-Op. 

It was magic. It was going to happen. We looked at spaces, and worked on a business plan. 

But it didn't work out. The spaces weren't great. Some of the best homebrewers I had my eye on opened their own nanobreweries. The day job got hectic. A baby was born. People moved out of town. A similar business opened up just a few towns south. 

These are the excuses that deflate a dream. 

But the dream has morphed. This site itself is part of the new vision. And there's more to come. And so there's no need to cry for me, Argentina. Obviously. 

The League of Extraordinary Brewers had a similar dream, and they got much closer to fully realizing it. Owner Lucrece Borrego got a lease on the 300 block of Main Street in Houston. And then worked hard to improve the space so that it looked as nice as it does in the header. In her own words: 

When I signed this place no one would go within a mile of here. The neighborhood was nearly abandoned with no other open businesses and rampant crime. I fought crackheads off my steps, got mugged, got my car broken into and faced constant harassment. The space itself was a wreck. It had been a Dimassi’s buffet and was filthy. Every redeeming characteristic of the historic building was covered in vinyl. I demolished all of that and restored the space by hand. I mean, by hand, as in, I got on my knees with an angle grinder wearing my motorcycle helmet and took the floor back to the original concrete. In the process I got scraped, cut and electrocuted (many times) but I believed in the space and my idea and I believed in downtown. I poured my life savings into the project. And when I say life savings I don’t mean a little corporate side nest egg. I mean life. As in, I’d been saving, dreaming of someday opening my own business, since I was a child.

That's the kind of work that changes neighborhoods. And so the block seemingly took a jump forward and became more hospitable. And so the entire neighborhood began to look nicer. And so other businesses moved in. And so the owner of the building may have realized he could get more money for his nicely renovated space. As Borrego says, "All he knows is that he can get more money for the space (especially now that I've transformed it)." 

Maybe the specifics don't matter. Maybe once the owner of the space saw that he could make more money, none of the specifics mattered. He could have found a hair in his soup, he could have found a door locked, he could have found a door unlocked, he could have found some trash in the wrong place. 

Turns out, he did find some trash in the wrong place. Oh, and there was the matter of the naked twister game. 

My “Events of Default” lumped together are kegs in the hallway in between deliveries and pick-up and the clincher, a game of strip Twister. The notice even cited my Facebook event share post “condoning” the naked games. Indeed, I had agreed to host a naked game night: a completely private event that takes place at bars all over Houston regularly. We covered all the windows and had someone working the door. Only one thing went wrong: an employee of the architectural services firm next door that has access to our hallways was working long after business hours and stumbled up a game of strip Twister in the hall. Whoever this person was, he or she had clearly never seen the naked male body before and took great offense to the incident, crying “public nudity” to the landlord.

In my particular case, this passage inspired a turbulent mix of emotions. 

  • Why are people so freaked out by nakedness? I'm practically a nevernude and I would have merely kept walking. 
  • Why did a bar that didn't have much savings risk anything with a naked bar night? 
  • Why wouldn't a bar that needed cash run a naked bar night, especially after other bars had done the same?
  • Why wouldn't a lawyer pick this up for a portion of the business?
  • Was there no way to revive this dream and keep it alive despite shenanigans? 
  • Why can't we improve neighborhoods without this seedy underside?

At the intersection of prudism, greed, and perhaps poor event planning once stood what looks like a fun bar backed by an idea I once shared. None of this makes me happy, but maybe it can be instructive. 

Be careful, be very careful -- at least until you've made it.