category Culture

Board of Directors Election Results

Many thanks to all of our Member-Owners who voted in the Fall 2020 Co-Op election. We had a significant voter turnout, and the results are in. The Black Star Board of Directors welcomes two returning board members and one new board member. The BOD members will be officially named to the board in the December 2020 meeting and their terms begin January 1, 2021.

Returning: John Warren
John has 20+ years of business & technology management experience, and he is also an
extremely consistent Member-Owner; he can be found at the Co-Op most Wednesday evenings. John finished his first term on the Black Star Board of Directors and looks forward to supporting
the Co-Op in the years to come. He would like to focus on Co-Op survival and growth, in a post
COVID-19 world.

Returning: Dacia Schoolfield
Dacia has 20+ experience in Quality Control Management; she has also moonlighted as a
Culinary & Pastry Arts Student. Dacia finished her first term on the BOD, and is excited to
continue supporting the Workers’ Assembly, as well as her fellow board members. She will
focus on effective communication between the WA and the BOD, as well as supporting the team
in pursuing grants and available funding sources.

New: Brian Crum
Brian and his family relocated to the Austin area in 2012. Black Star was his first local brewpub
in the Austin area, and remains his favorite to this day. An engineer by degree, he has worked in
aerospace, automotive and now urban mobility. He has travelled extensively in Europe and Asia
and enjoys meeting new people and experiencing different cultures. He has many lifelong
friendships that started with six simple words, “Can I buy you a beer?”

If you would like more information regarding the Black Star Board of Directors, please check out the
BOD page. As always, if you have questions for the board, please send an email to board@blackstar.coop.
Thank you for being a Member-Owner and thank you for being involved in the Black Star Co-op. As we
approach the holiday season, don’t forget that Black Star merch always makes for a good gift, as do gift
cards, crowlers, and growlers.
See you at the pub.
Prost!

Onward & Upwards: A Reflection

This. Has. Been. A. Year.

Who would have thought right at the beginning of January 2020 that in the year to come we’d face a
global pandemic, a crazy presidential election, the loss of Alex Trebek, and the loss of Sean Connery – all
in the same year. I, like many of you, am looking forward to putting 2020 in the rearview mirror. Regardless, we enter that time of year where reflection, compassion, and the thirst for progress ushers
us into 2021. I reflect on what’s important, significant, and what brings me happiness: family, friends,
friendly faces at Black Star Co-Op, and a freshly poured pint of Vulcan on the patio.
Due to the heroic efforts of the Workers’ Assembly, and through the dedication of our amazing
Member-Owners, Black Star Co-Op not only celebrated a ten-year anniversary this year, but the pub
remains open, operational, and ready to offer up inspired craft beer with a side of amazing food.
We are all fortunate to have Black Star in our lives – to support an institution that celebrates the worker,
is democratically controlled, provides meaningful and exceptional services, while also building a true
sense of Gemütlichkeit.
So take a moment to reflect on the year you’ve had, the year we’ve all had. And come on down to the
Co-op for a cold beer and some good food. Celebrate the inevitable end of 2020, and more importantly,
celebrate the year to come. I propose a toast to honor Black Star, the Workers’ Assembly, and the
Member-Owners. Together, we will prevail.
I look forward to seeing you at the pub.
Prost!

Getting Back to a Fair Living Wage

As most of our Member-Owners know, Black Star Co-op has a long, proud history of advocating for workers’ rights, supporting a democratic model, and paying an equitable, fair living wage to all of our workers. Yet, the past few years have presented unprecedented challenges, and our ability to pay a legitimate living wage to our workers has been inhibited by our efforts to remain in business.

The current climate of the restaurant industry as a whole has pivoted drastically over these past 8 months. Many of our local competitors have closed shop. Restaurants workers throughout the country have experienced terminations, unemployment, and longterm uncertainty. While Black Star has been able to retain many workers who have elected to continue working through the pandemic, our inability to guarantee that all workers take home a fair living wage has become unacceptable. 

It should come as no surprise that the cost of living in our city has continued to increase at a pace that Black Star has been unable to match. In an effort to take corrective action and provide ourselves with what the City of Austin defines as a fair living wage, the Workers’ Assembly at Black Star Co-op has voted to implement a 5% service charge to all checks, beginning on December 1st. While we feel that this change will have a very low impact on guest experience, the small increase in revenue will have a dramatically positive impact to workers. Funds collected from the service charge will be collected and distributed directly to all non-managerial front and back of house workers, once again guaranteeing a living wage to our entire Workers’ Assembly.

To be clear, Black Star will continue to be a ‘no tipping’ establishment. We will not rely on the generosity of our guests to supplement wages, but, we believe that this small service charge will have an amazingly favorable impact on business overall. Hiring and employee retention will immediately improve, allowing for more consistency. Workplace morale will quickly be boosted. Workers will now be incentivized to increase sales while continuing to provide exceptional customer service. We look forward to the comprehensive improvements expected from this change. 

The voice of our membership has repeatedly listed worker treatment and fair wages as one of our top values, and we now ask you to prove allegiance to your virtue. As the pandemic continues to ravage our country and economy, the Black Star community can proudly say that we have been able to pivot in a direction that allows our business and workers to thrive, even under the most difficult of circumstances. We would like to thank our Member-Owners in advance for your ongoing support of Black Star, and your dedication to living wages and fair worker treatment. We simply would not exist without you.  

Fall Members’ Assembly Meeting

Come one, come all, join us this Fall for a virtual Member-Owners meeting!  

During these crazy, pandemic times, we are moving the Member-Owners meeting to an online platform.  We encourage all M/Os to join us this Sunday, November 15th at 10am; please RSVP here.

We’ll have an action-packed agenda to cover with everyone.  Well, maybe not quite as exciting as JCVD’s latest flick, but still chock-full of data, anecdotes, the occasional laugh, and fun surprises.

After the virtual meeting, plan to head to the pub for a socially distant, outdoor pint with members from the Board of Directors, as well as with our esteemed members of the Workers’ Assembly. 

In the meantime, stay safe, healthy, and drink good beer. 

Cheers to 10 Years!

Hey folks! As I’m sure everyone would agree, 2020 has been one hell of a ride. Over the last 5 months, running Black Star Co-op has been a challenge to say the least, but the year had originally promised to be such a banger! January started us off when our good friend Ted Cheavens finished a beautiful mural on the exterior of our building. We placed an order for a brand new set of amazing wooden table tops in February to help brighten up the space. The Craft Brewers Conference was slated to come to San Antonio in April which would have brought in brewers/friends from all across the world to experience our awesome beer scene in Texas! And then, our 10 Year Anniversary Party. This was huge. Black Star Co-op has served our community, member-owners and workers for an entire decade. The workers put in a ton of effort to plan this event, making sure it would be as special as it should be for such a historic landmark. Unfortunately, you know how the story actually played out, and that didn’t sit too well with us. So (with social distancing practices in mind) next Saturday, August 15th, we will be releasing several beers: A special bottle release of Moebius (bourbon barrel aged stout), Black Is Beautiful, our collaboration beer with Weathered Souls in San Antonio, Texas, and a couple of special kegs we’ve been holding onto. Then on Sunday August 16th at 2PM, we will be hosting a virtual Cheers to 10 Years! via Facebook live. We ask that you swing by, grab some bottles/crowlers/growlers on Saturday, then join us on Sunday to celebrate Black Star’s 10 decade long legacy of slinging great food and beer in Austin, Texas. Thank you for all of your support over the years, it is truly a privilege to serve such a rad community of people.

Worker Spotlight: Oscar Perez

  1. What position do you work?
    Line cook.
  2. How long have you been cooking and where?
    I’ve worked in many places over the last 20yrs: cafés, delis, bakeries, etc. The last place I worked was for a butchery deli in upstate New York.
  3. Where are you from?
    I grew up on Long Island. I moved to Austin in Feb 2019 from upstate New York, drawn here by the music scene. Upstate and the Hudson River area is beautiful! I lived there for about 3 ½ years and I loved it. But I needed a change of place – somewhere with a good music scene – so I packed up and headed to Austin. I didn’t know anyone when I first got here, but I immediately started going around town and getting into the music and art, and all that the city had to offer.
  4. What do you do outside of work with your free time? (Or what do you imagine yourself doing if pandemic restrictions weren’t in place?)
    I’m a musician. I’ve sung and played guitar solo and in
    bands for about 20yrs. I’ve played all kinds of music and
    really like heavy rock when I can do it with a band.
    Recently, I’ve been working on my own music – mostly
    singer-song writer stuff. I had planned to do some
    studio recording of my songs this summer but the
    COVID-19 shutdown kind of put that on hold. But we
    deal with what we’ve got and so I’ve been focusing on
    using my time and forced isolation for writing songs and
    poetry. Before the shutdown I used to like to go to places like
    the Spider House café and listen to poetry slams or go try out my music at open mic nights at places like The Cactus Café.
  5. What do you enjoy about Black Star Co-op?
    I really like the openness in the way the employees work together and run the business. There’s a lot of flexibility and everyone really helps each other out. Some places I’ve worked in the past there were maybe some personalities that clashed and caused tension, but the employees here get along well and pitch in to do what’s needed.
  6. What is your favorite house beer? One of the benefits of working for a brewpub is getting the occasional beer shot during the shift, so when I’m working, Midtown Light is my choice to keep things light and easy. Outside of work, I really like Fructis. It has a really nice hoppiness and flavor. I’m also enjoying Roze Sap lately. I’m not usually into sour beers, but it won me over.
  1. What’s one fun or unusual thing about working on the Black Star kitchen team?
    Honestly, the main thing is how everyone helps each other out – it really creates a good environment. It’s also fun to work in kitchen that changes up the menu seasonally and where you can experiment sometimes to add variety. One dish I created that we offered recently is the honey mustard chicken sandwich. The first week, we didn’t have pickles, so I topped it with thin cucumber slices, which turned out pretty good. But if you haven’t had the chance to try it with pickles, I suggest you do. I think it really makes it that much better.
  2. The kitchen team is known for working with a soundtrack. What is one of your go-to songs or bands when you’re getting things done?
    Hard to pick a single song, but my go-to band is one from Australia called King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Literally anything from their album Infest the Rats Nest is guaranteed to get me
    going when things need to get done.
  3. Any Last words to the co-op members?
    I just want to say that you have a really good thing going with Black Star Co-op. It’s a unique place in terms of both what it offers and how it operates. I think as the current pandemic concerns ease it will continue to grow into a great Austin spot.

Board Meeting Review

As long-time regular patrons of Black Star who enjoy the house beer and the wonderful staff, we have come to feel like a part of the Black Star family. We saw how the Co-op handled the COVID19 difficulties, successfully rising above other businesses in keeping patrons and staff safe while continuing to stay open, and were intrigued by the great opportunity offered in the May newsletter to attend a board meeting as guests.

Although we didn’t have any expectations beyond observing the meeting, we were immediately welcomed into the Zoom forum with an introduction of each member and warmly invited to participate throughout the meeting.  It was a bit disappointing to know that only one board member is female, but refreshing to learn that Dacia is the dedicated president (who attended despite feeling under the weather).  The board is comprised of a mixture of legacy and new members, and all seemingly dedicated to offering their talents to the success of our coop.

After a thorough presentation of the current state of affairs by Chris, who represented the staff, a few other topics were covered.  The meeting was run efficiently, and members were very respectful of each other’s time and contributions. We left feeling that the Co-op is in great competent hands, and that this is a group we would feel comfortable contributing as members.

Fresh Haps: What’s New at Black Star

Hey Everyone,

Just a quick update on changes that are happening this week, as well as a few exciting things we have on the horizon.

Extended Hours: Black Star will now be open from Noon-9pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Although we are still only operating Thursday – Sunday, we’re excited to get you the beer and grub you crave for both lunch/brunch and dinner on the weekends.

New Food Items: Our new Head Chef, Jeff Harper has put together some awesome Cook Em Yourself Kits that you can purchase on the spot. Take & Shake Fish Fry Kits feeds 2 and includes Gulf caught black drum, seasoned breadcrumb mixture, seasoned chips, and house aioli. $24, available Thursday – Sunday. English Breakfast Kits also feed 2 and include farm fresh eggs, house breakfast sausage, baked beans, arugula and tomato salad, and Easy Tiger toast. $18, available Saturday and Sunday.

Upcoming Beer Release: Lots to look forward to! Listed below are all upcoming beer releases, and their potential release dates:

Waterloo & Watermelon Waterloo: July 30th (Maybe sooner!)

Black is Beautiful: Mid August. A portion of proceeds will benefit Austin Justice Coalition

Special Reserves: Mid-August, keep an eye out.

Moebius: TBD, but it’s coming…

Merch Sale: We’re sitting on way too much winter inventory, so we’ve dropped some prices and encourage you to grab these babies while we got em. Mustard Hoodies $55 now $45. Red Acid Wash Tees $25 now $15. Beanies $19 now $10. Stock up now, you’ll thank yourself later.

Worker Spotlight: Jeff Harper

We (virtually) sat down with Black Star’s new head chef to find out a little more about him.

  1. What’s your earliest food memory?
    Once while playing at my Grandparent’s driveway, I fell and scuffed my knees. I came into the house, crying, with blood running down my leg, looking for comfort and my mom had just pulled fresh
    cinnamon rolls out of the oven. Trying to calm me down they offered me things like band-aides or water but instead I said through the tears, “A cinnamon roll would make my knee stop hurting.” 
  2. Who has influenced your cooking the most?
    Definitely my mother via her biggest influence which was her Grandmother. 
  3. What’s your favorite go-to ingredient or is there an ingredient you use a lot that would surprise people?
    Ginger. Most often, when friends or family really like something and can’t exactly place the flavor they like, it’s ginger.
  4. Do you have any signature dishes?
    Scrambled eggs. 🙂
  5. If you could cook a meal for anyone, who would it be?
    White House chef for Teddy Roosevelt
  6. Dumbest thing you’ve ever done with food or in a kitchen?
    My first job in the kitchen (after deciding to change my career path and cook full time) was the opening prep-cook at the original Second Bar + Kitchen and it was my job to open in the morning and fry all of the chips for the day. My first day solo I forgot to close the drain
    valves on the fryers before filling them with oil. I spent two hours soaking up oil with rags and never said a word to anyone. When Jason Stude arrived and asked why the floor was oily, I just put my head down and chopped zucchini. 
  7. What would we find in your kitchen at home?
    Cast iron skillets, and air fryer (trust me), and A LOT of pastry/cake decorating equipment. My girlfriend is an incredibly talented pastry chef. 
  1. Most memorable meal?

I was lucky enough to travel abroad to Ecuador in my early twenties and went fishing with
some guys off the coast of the Galapagos Islands. I caught a Bluefin Tuna and the guys
from the boat came over that night and we built a fire in the street and everyone within
earshot came over and we carved that tuna to the bone cooking it over open fire, dousing it
with beer, even eating sashimi right off the fresh fish. Unforgettable experience. 

  1. What food is your guilty pleasure?
    Beef jerky.
  2. What been your pandemic staple meal or comfort food? 
    Knock-off Alamo Drafthouse popcorn paired with a movie from their streaming service.  
  3. What do you do outside of work with your free time? (Or what do you imagine
    yourself doing if pandemic restrictions weren’t in place?)
    Tend to a small farm in Oak Hill that a friend owns, fishing, various tinkering projects,
    drumming, etc. 
  4. Any Last words as the new kitchen team leader of Black Star?
    “When the going gets tough, the weird turn pro.” -Hunter S. Thompson

Good Work Austin – Keeping Us Safe

While the City of Austin extends its Stay Home – Work Safe order through June 15, Texas continues its drive to Open Texas. These are dark times in our industry with many local restaurants (Threadgills, Enchiladas y Mas, and North by Northwest) permanently closing their doors due to the economic impact of the pandemic. Restaurants need customers. As local restaurants consider opening their doors in the near future, many are concerned about the health and safety of their workers, customers, and their communities. How can they best prevent the spread of Covid-19 once open? Should they regularly measure staff temperature? How can they develop policies that reassure customers that the restaurant
is a safe place to dine? What should they do if Covid-19 cases continue to rise? Should they deny service to guests who choose not to follow any guidelines they develop?


How can they answer these tough questions? Through cooperation, of course! Good Work Austin began as a group of local businesses advocating for the City of Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance, with Black Star Coop playing a critical activist role. GWA developed a re-opening agreement that provides answers to these critical questions for restaurants, their customers, and the community, which includes the following commitments.

  1. Reservation sites and websites will include notices that diners cannot enter the restaurant if
    they are exhibiting any symptoms of Covid-19. We will deny service to guests who do not follow
    our clearly stated guidelines
  2. Employees will be counseled on appropriate behavior at and away from work by a medical
    professional to make sure that they are not putting our community at risk.
  3. Staff temperatures must be taken daily. Anyone with a 99.6º or higher temperature will be sent
    home.
  4. Staff who have experienced COVID-19 symptoms will be sent home and must fulfill one of the
    following options: 1) receive a note from a doctor allowing them to return to work; 2) receive a
    negative result from a COVID-19 test; 3) complete a 14 day self-quarantine.
  5. If an employee tests positive for Covid-19, we will thoroughly sanitize our business and require
    staff who worked with the infected employee anytime in the last 14 days to be tested or
    quarantined for two weeks.
  6. We will include an Employee Wellness Charge to provide our employees with access to health
    care and paid sick leave.
  7. All dine-In customers will provide their names. All dine-in customers and employees will
    complete a Health Declaration.
  8. All staff must wear masks while in the restaurant. Customers must wear masks except when
    they have food or beverage in front of them.
  9. Hand washing will be enforced every 30 minutes for all staff.
  10. Staff will have no intentional physical contact and will constantly be aware of the necessity of
    social distancing.
  11. We will dedicate certain employees to service customers and/or divide spaces and redefine
    roles to further separate employees and customers.
  12. Menus will be on display, online, or be sanitized after each use. Single-use menus will be
    available by request.
  13. Hand Sanitation stations will be placed at the entrance & exit of the restaurant and outside the
    restrooms.
  14. We are committed to ensuring proper ventilation of our indoor spaces by cleaning & changing
    filters more frequently and/or increasing fresh airflow.
  15. Adopt all elements of Open Texas Minimum Standard Health Protocols for facility, customers,
    and employees.

Over 100 local businesses including coffee shops, restaurants, breweries, and hotels have signed the
agreement. Considering Black Star Coop’s guiding principles of cooperation among cooperatives and
concern for community, the Worker’s Assembly signed this agreement. Collectively following these guidelines as we continue to plan our opening will help Black Star Coop members and non-member customers make informed decisions about the risks related to the pandemic and ensure the health and safety of our hard-working Workers.