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Three Rivers tap room reopens, but fate of restaurants remains unclear


Co-owner John Silva says eatery, pizzeria remain closed for now

Mike Easterling   | Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — While he says he still hasn't decided whether to reopen his flagship dining room, Three Rivers Brewery co-owner John Silva has resumed operations at one of his establishments, the Three Rivers Tap and Game Room at 111 E. Main St. in downtown Farmington.

Silva said the tap room opened for business again on Monday, Aug. 17. It and the other elements of Silva's "brewery block" — the Three Rivers Eatery & Brewhouse, the Three Rivers Pizzeria and the Three Rivers Brewstillery Lounge — have been closed since at least May 21, depriving the downtown district of one of its bigger draws.

Another of the brewery's co-owners, Bob Beckley, told The Daily Times then that the decision was made after the brewery's various enterprises were hit by a "perfect storm" of problems — the reduced access to the businesses brought on by the Complete Streets construction, the shutdown of restaurants caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in the state's minimum wage that went into effect on Jan. 1.

Silva said the taproom has been operating on a limited basis, selling beer only and serving customers on its back patio. It also fills growlers and sells cans for take-out service.

He acknowledged an announcement by the Governor's Office earlier in the week that restaurants and brewpubs would be allowed to resume indoor service at 25% capacity beginning this weekend could help his beer sales. But he said that won't lead him to reopen his eatery and pizzeria.

"Twenty-five percent still screws all the restaurants," he said. "You can't open at 25% and still crack your nut."

Silva said he would not consider reopening his restaurants until they can operate at a minimum of 50% capacity. But he is happy to have some revenue coming in again after months of seeing his utilities and other bills pile up.

"Any money is better than no money," he said.

At one time, the brewery operations employed nearly 100 people, but virtually all of them were laid off over the summer. Silva said he now has five people working part time at the tap room, and he is pleased by the way his customers have responded over the last week and a half.

"People are so ecstatic to come in," he said. "And they're so happy to see my employees working."

Silva said he has not taken advantage of the possibility of offering outdoor seating on the sidewalk in front of the taproom.

More: Farmington-area restaurants excited to reopen indoor dining again amid drop in COVID-19 cases

"I could possibly do that, but it requires a special-use permit from the state of New Mexico," he said. "And I just don't think it's a good idea to do that with the element we have downtown."

The taproom is open from 4:30 to 10 p.m. daily, but Silva said those hours could change by this weekend, depending on what kind of business it sees. He said the taproom's selection of craft beers will be growing, and he plans to have some IPAs available this weekend.

More: Three Rivers Brewery Block shutting down until at least late summer

Silva said the next step in the reopening process for the brewery block would be the possible resumption of operations at the lounge, where he would be permitted to sell cocktails. He said a resumption of restaurant operations would be last, and he isn't sure that's even feasible anymore, given the increased costs of food since the pandemic began and the additional costs he would face in keeping his kitchen workers supplied with personal protective equipment.

"The next month or so could give us a better idea" of whether that is doable, he said.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.