Co-op tavern in Riverwest holds grand opening

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:52 am

The Riverwest Public House Cooperative, the second cooperatively owned bar in the nation, will host a series of grand opening events beginning Sunday, April 3 through Friday, April 8.
Events will range from potlucks, beer tastings, neighborhood cleanups and musical performances.
“The events we will be holding this week are really designed to highlight and showcase the types of events we want to be holding on a regular basis in the Riverwest neighborhood,” said Steve Whitlow, Riverwest Public House board member and member of the finance committee. “We really want to send the message that a cooperative business model can work and that we want to be a staple in the Riverwest community and hopefully act as a catalyst for future expansion of cooperative businesses.”
The Riverwest neighborhood already has a co-op grocery store and a co-op café, Whitlow said.
“We really want push more people to adopt the co-op model for business rather than the traditional hierarchical ownership,” he said. “We want to be a tavern that becomes more than just a place to enjoy a beer; we want to be a part of the community.”
The Public House’s cooperative business structure provides a unique experience. As a cooperative, people may become a member-owner for $40 per year or $200 for a lifetime membership.
“We have a much bigger vision for this bar,” Whitlow said. “Making money selling alcohol is the easy part in some ways. Getting people to start building a community around the bar and thinking of the Public House as a central hub for the neighborhood is what is important.”
The Public House will be used as a gathering and meeting place for groups in the community, Whitlow said.
Neighbors within 50 meters of the Riverwest Public House Cooperative receive a complimentary membership to the cooperative while they live in the area, Whitlow said.
Purchasing a membership to the cooperative assures individuals the opportunity to cast a vote at the Cooperative’s annual meeting as well as access to special member only events, and drink discounts.
“Sometimes a bar will move into the neighborhood and really not care about the community,” Whitlow said. “That’s definitely not what we’re about. We want the community to feel a part of what we are doing here, and that’s the reason for the ‘neighbor memberships,’ we want them to know if they aren’t happy with the way things are going they have a voice here.”
The Cooperative has already sold more than 180 memberships including approximately 50 lifetime memberships. As an added incentive, the pub is offering the first 100 lifetime memberships a custom-made stein from a local potter, which will hang in the pub, Whitlow said.
Right now the Public House has succeeded by the help of volunteers and the cost of memberships. Extensive renovations to the inside were completed almost solely with the help of volunteers and donations, Whitlow said.
“Once we get enough funds to bring on a full time staff we hope to set aside additional money for a fund that would help other business cooperatives form,” he said.
For more information on the Cooperative or on the grand opening events visit

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