Save the Wild Eye Pub
A letter from Beth Moore and David Kuczora, co-founders of Wild Eye Pub ~ Restaurant, Event Venue & Saloon ~ established in 2017 in the historic Empire House, originally built in 1851, the first public house in Boston Ravine, later known as Grass Valley, CA.
In this season of gratitude, of endings and new beginnings, we’re reflecting on much for which we are grateful. We began renovating this old building in 2017, opening in 2018. Looking back on so many friendships made, meals served, and 989 events hosted, we think - how did we do it?! There is one answer: it’s you, our community, the reason we could open, and continue to be.
What We Do
You’ve trusted our healthy, sourced menu. So, we buy fresh, local and organic meat and produce. It takes our staff more time to prepare fresh meals, from scratch. No fake colors, flavors, or sprays here. No cheap, high-profit, processed food-paks that some restaurants just heat and serve; we make real, clean, honest food. That maraschino cherry in your manhattan is all natural.
We live our values at home and work: non-toxic products, buying in bulk, cloth napkins, real serving ware. We compost and we recycle - everything. Our cases of recycled office paper get recycled, again.
We love hosting skilled local and touring performers every night. These creatives are featured artists, not “background music.” We feed and pay them. We’re grateful for the music they share, and the fans they bring. Many donate music to our monthly charity fundraisers.
By extension, you do all of this, too. You’ve supported and magnified what we give to our community of artists, nonprofits, farmers, vintners, brewers, ranchers… Together, we build community.
Now, we are sad to share that Wild Eye Pub is at risk of closing.
For 5 years, we’ve been resourceful jugglers. We completed code upgrades, created a business, and now manage this 3-ring circus: event venue, and restaurant, and saloon. We joke that we are “flying the airplane as we build it.” Many of you have done tasks that helped us take wing, and stay aloft.
But, in March 2020, just 21 months open, we hit 2+ years of Covid challenges. Our priority throughout has been protecting performers, staff and customers.
Instead of canceling the 100 calendared events, we live-streamed many artists’ shows and collected online tips for them. And booked more shows. We kept many performers safely employed when most gigs were canceled for some time.
We put our home payments on hold for a year, to redirect Beth’s teacher retirement income to cover Pub’s payroll, giving our staff job security. We still had savings.
Following safety protocols for 2+ years sometimes meant take-out only, or serving only outside, or back inside, but only at 25% - 50% capacity; endless pivots with more costs and decreased sales. Our sales fell by 75%, and our savings dwindled. Adding stress, we were at times targeted by some who disagreed with our cautious approach.
You kept us going through that dark time: ordering weekly take-out, buying gift cards, dining in or outside as allowed, giving gifts of cash and encouragement and hugs. Some offered to spearhead fundraisers. We gratefully declined, feeling others had greater needs. We’re hard-core do-it-yourselfers, making do with used goods and recycled scraps. We still had some resources.
Besides, we were never in this for profit. We’re the most non-profit of any non-non-profit we know! We’ve willingly subsidized this project, waiting for it to eventually break even. We’ve seen it as a shared community space for good causes, healthy food, hosting artists, right living, belonging. And with you, we’ve created that.
But now… we need some help. We’ve exhausted our savings. We’ve taken out (more) loans. We’ve held yard sales, skipped our vacations, and sold our dusty old Airstream to pay the bills. We support living wages, yet we know the $1.50/hr minimum wage hike in January will hit us, as have rocketing food and fuel costs. Finally, our SBA loan rate just reset to 8%. It’s painfully clear that we can’t do this alone, and we need your help.
So, with advice and support from our community, and with our fervent hopes to keep going … We have set up a GoFundMe.
The Pub - one friend calls us “a community center with food” - is a huge effort. We naively entered this path thinking we walked it alone. But you’ve been right there with us, all along. And there could be no Wild Eye Pub, without you.
In our newsletters, you’ve read our mantra that we “hold onto hope like it’s oxygen.” Because without hope, we have nothing. And we continue to look to the future with hope for what’s ahead. Our spirits are buoyed by the goodness around us and recent shifts in our country, moving us toward a bright future. We’re not done. There’s still work (and play) to do, together.
Critical Needs - Our goal addresses 3 specific areas of need:
1) Debt repayment/ stable support
Pandemic costs to our young business were stunning. We adapted to keep open, using loans and savings to cover costly pivots. Later, some grants and loans helped us pay staff and suppliers, and keep going. But business in 2022 hasn’t returned to what it was. Local businesses are closing weekly. We’ve survived this far - but it’s taken everything we had. We need to restore rainy day funds and cover loans. Here on Wolf Creek, we know we must be ready for one bad flood year, or failure of our critical basement sump pumps.
2) Keeping the history, maintaining the building
We’re proud to be the current keepers of our building’s history, and tellers of its stories. We've preserved this old building with thoughtful repairs. The old 1948 bathrooms with tiny doors are now accessible to all. However, more is needed, like adding an access ramp and access parking, to meet ADA rules and just to do the right thing. Also, fixing past short-term repairs will improve historical integrity. Removing the cheap front facade will let us repair the original roof gable. Like maintaining an old museum, there are always repairs.
3) Infrastructure and equipment repairs
We’re resourceful “MacGyvers,” making do with what we have. We turned creekside parking into a lovely dining area, with patio furniture from yard sales. We still use the old stoves and pots and pans that came with our building. But some equipment is worn beyond duct tape fixes. We need to replace the broken reach-in cooler hinge, the leaky sanitizer pump, the walk-in freezer’s crumbling door seal, and do other deferred maintenance. If funds allow, modernizing some equipment would improve energy efficiency. And someday, solar could offset the Pub’s hefty $23,000 annual heating/cooling bill.
Setting a Meaningful Goal
We’ve set a GoFundMe goal of $162,000. It’s a starting place, a portion of what we really need. This number is meaningful to us: “162 symbolizes compassion, with humanitarian energy. It resonates with both completions and beginnings. It relates to awareness of the state of mankind and acting to improve conditions, including supporting organizations that make the world a better place.”
Beyond symbolism, this amount will help restore our safety net and strengthen Wild Eye’s foundation into the future. We are visualizing that strong place, from which we can keep making good food, hosting beautiful events, and building community with you.
As we close this letter, we want to express our gratitude for each of you. Whatever happens now, thank you for helping light this beautiful, bumpy road we’ve walked together. Thank you for being here for us and the Wild Eye Pub, allowing us to do what we love: connecting our community through food, music and the good works of our neighbors. We hope to keep doing this, alongside you.
We would be grateful if you’d share our fundraiser with others who might support what we do. If you’d rather make a direct contribution by check to our fundraiser, you can do so to Wild Eye Pub, and mail it to us at 535 Mill St, Grass Valley, CA 95945.
With our love and gratitude,
Beth and David
of Wild Eye Pub
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Grass Valley, CA