category Culture

Worker Spotlight: Mike

What do you do at Black Star Co-op? 
Cook bad-ass food with some bad-ass peeps for awesome customers. 

Where are you from? 
I was born in Iowa City, Iowa. Relocated to Lake Travis in 4th grade. Now I live down the street from Black Star. 

What is your favorite beer currently on tap? 

And your favorite dish on the menu? 
I stay true to the champ: the Black Star Burger. 

What is your favorite late night Drunk Snack?
Anything with chili and cheese on it.

What was the best movie you saw last year? 
Abstain (because I can’t remember a movie I saw last year).

Do you have a horse in the Super Bowl Race? 
Going Homer, Dallas. 

What music do you play in the kitchen when you’ve got control? 
Riff Raff.

Who is the better cook, you or your wife (be honest, but keep in mind that the answer to this question will be emailed to your wife)?
You sneaky… The wife of course. 

Co-op 101: Part 3

Part 1 of this series outlined the basic principles governing traditional cooperatives, with reference to the operations of Black Star reflecting each principle. Part 2 explored the fundamentals of patronage refunds.  In Part 3, we’ll explore cooperative investment arrangements.  The rules and practicalities of co-op investment, and how such investment jibes with patronage rebates, are fairly complex. While a detailed presentation is beyond the scope of this short article, here are the basics: 

Like many co-ops, BSC periodically offers a preferred share program allowing Owners to invest in BSC beyond the membership payment required of all Owners.  This program — called the Member Investment Share Offering or “MISO” program — provides crucial funds for the development and expansion of our Co-op. BSC’s initial MISO phase raised more than $630,000, which is part of the reason why the brewpub was able to open so quickly and become so successful.  The Board anticipates another round of fundraising soon after plans are solidified for a new brewing facility, first, and then a new brewpub.  Because we want to allow as many members as possible to invest, we’ll likely set the minimum purchase amount at $1000 (10 shares at $100 apiece).  

Some co-ops do not offer investment shares beyond the required membership payment, but co-ops may appropriately offer investment shares if the program is carefully structured to maintain both the cooperative nature of the business and their favorable tax treatment.  Co-ops also do not want run afoul of state and federal securities laws—but, happily, there are exemptions available to co-ops.  One of these exemptions, for example, applies to an entity selling shares only to intrastate members. It is virtually prohibitive for a small business to pay the fees and comply with the regulatory requirements of a state/federal registered stock sale, so exemption from such laws is critical.  

The various limitations on co-op investment reflect the cooperative principles of Democratic Member Control, Member Economic Participation and Autonomy and Independence.  It would not be very cooperative to allow investors to control a co-op by purchasing large amounts of stock.  Therefore, co-ops would want to restrict sale of shares to persons who are members of the co-op and limit the amount of their investment.  State and federal laws also limit the amount of return on co-op investment (up to 8%), and limit the amount of the co-op’s assets that can be used to pay interest on the investments (Texas law allows only 50% of the co-op’s net profits to be used for investment dividends).  Perhaps most significantly, co-ops should apportion no additional voting power based on an additional investment. All these limitations are referred to as the subordination of capital requirements for co-ops — that is, the structure and control of the co-op should be strictly based on the principle of one person, one vote.  Co-ops are free to raise money, but they must also retain the attributes of a co-op.  

Some co-op experts contend that additional member investment alters the nature of a co-op, necessarily shifting its goals from generating only a return to members on patronage to a combined goal of return on patronage and return on investment.  The co-op now has two potentially conflicted types of members, each with different types of property rights and different expectations.  Some view the use of such additional investment, particularly from nonmember investors, as subverting or diluting the co-op business model.  Others view such investment as far preferable to loans from predatory banks and other outside sources.  Additional member investment keeps the equity and interest payments “in the family.”  The Directors of the co-op must be mindful of the dual interests in carefully managing the potential conflict.

Based on the above considerations, BSC intends to continue its program of raising expansion equity with a blend of new MISO investment and bank loans, as well as through increased sales of our delicious food and beer — now including beer distributed to other pub and retail locations around town. The BSC Board will continue to carefully analyze the interplay between patronage rebates and MISO dividends to ensure that all members are treated fairly and beneficially.  

John Vinson is an elected member of Black Star Co-op’s Board of Directors.

Holiday Gift Packages

Get ready to outfit your loved ones (and maybe yourself) with Black Star Co-op apparel and products. In addition to merchandise found in our online store, we have some special priced gift packages, available in the brewpub now through New Year’s Eve.  

Imperial Gift Membership $180/$200
Fully paid membership, flip top ($180) or insulated ($200) growler, Rational house beer fill, pint glass, and brewzie

Mega Sweet Gift Certificate Deal $100
Buy 5 $20 gift certificates, get an additional $20 certificate free

Growler Starter Set $35/$55
Choice of flip-top ($35) or insulated ($55) growler and Rational house beer fill

Black Star Bundle $20
Choice of t-shirt, pint glass, and brewzie

Holiday Four Pack $12/$16
4 Rational bottled 12 oz. beers or 3 Rational and 1 Irrational

Co-ops Have More to Be Thankful for

In years past, the inimitable Dana Curtis penned letters of appreciation to the Membership in the spirit of Thanksgiving. An inventory of what the business owes to the devoted support of our Member-Owners. This year, my first with the co-op, I am writing that letter. My perspective is fresh, but raw, if I miss a few things, forgive me. 

1. Participation and Accountability:
Everything we do as a business must meet the standards set by membership. You elect the Board of Directors, the policy makers at Black Star Co-op, and in turn hold the Board accountable for its policy decisions. By attending monthly Board meetings you provide feedback by participating in meetings and member events.

2. Goals and Values: 
The moral guideposts that factor into the everyday operation of the Co-op are provided by the Member-Owners.  By being a member of the Co-op, you support, not only the internationally accepted cooperative principles, but also Black Star’s values of excellent worker treatment, environmental sustainability, and community involvement. 

3. Patronage: 
Perhaps the most obvious way that we rely on the membership is through patronage. Whether you’re bringing co-workers by for happy hour, enjoying a Member-Owner discounted house beer on Tuesday, or making Black Star Co-op your regular Friday lunch spot–we depend on you utilizing our services. 

If you’d like to share any of the aspects of Black Star Co-op that you’re thankful for, please feel free to comment (one more way to participate in your Co-op). 


Worker Spotlight: Amy

What do you do at Black Star Co-op? 

 I’m on the pub team, slinging drinks and happy memories.

Where are you from? 


What’s you favorite beer currently on tap?

Old Sour Dewberry (the Old Sour Portberry cask is great too)!

What’s your favorite late night drunk snack?

Spicy chicken wings from Rockin’ Rice. 

What’s the last book you read? 

 Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed series. 

What’s your favorite cooperative principal? 

Democratic organization is a beautiful thing, especially in the service industry!

If time were no issue, which completely impractical skill would you work to perfect? 

Whistling — I want to whistle like Jodi someday.

Preferred music station at work? 

Sam Cooke *swoon*

What Is the Title of Your Future Memoir?

Big Things Come in Small Packages: Exploring the Beauty in Little Things/Good Eats, Good Beer, and Human Liberation. 

The House That Beer Built: In the “Home” Stretch

Our Directors and member-owners met up on Monday September 22nd for a Member-Owner Extravaganza–a chance to sample some fine house brews, tasty snacks and to encourage further donations for the Black Star Co-Op Board of Directors-endorsed fundraising project “The House That Beer Built.”  Attendance was great, and Director Steve bought pints for those who donated $20 or more on the spot.

During the week of September 21-28, the pub and WA donated $1.00 to the project for every pint of High Esteem served, raising $519 more.  Director Scott Kelley held a fund raising beer tasting and gathered $585 more, bringing our total raised to $4,586, a fine showing versus our goal of $5,000.  

There is STILL TIME to volunteer, and to donate.  If you are interested in donating, visit the BSC Team Page at and click “Donate Now” on the right. Build volunteers can click on this link for Saturday shifts on November 2, 9, 11, and 18.

The dedication of the House That Beer Built for the Huerta family (plus 6 other families!) will take place on Saturday, November 22nd from 4-6 pm on Barteny Cove.

For more information, contact Board Member Steve Basile at

Austin Habitat For Humanity is an IRS certified 501(c)(3) organization and contributions are tax-deductible and are eligible for matching by your company. 

Black Star Co-op: Embodying the 7 Cooperative Principles

If you didn’t already know, October is Coop Month! In honor of the occasion I’ve compiled a list of the 7 cooperative principles adopted by the International Cooperative Alliance and how Black Star practices each one.

1. Voluntary and Open Membership

Coop membership is open to anyone of legal drinking age with a valid physical and electronic mailing address. Members can revoke their membership at anytime and have their equity investment returned to them.

2. Democratic Member Control

Black Star is a democratically controlled business, where members elect the Board of Directors and vote on changes to our Bylaws and Ends Policies. In fact, there’s an election happening right now

3. Member Economic Participation

All members are expected to contribute the same equity investment. The member elected and controlled Board of Directors distributes the Co-op’s profit back into the business for expansion and growth, or declares a patronage dividend back to the owners based on how much money they spend at the Co-op throughout the year. Members with an additional investment in Black Star do not receive additional voting rights or privileges. 

4. Autonomy and Independence

Our business is only controlled by the members. There are no outside interests guiding our business or organizational decisions.

5. Education, Training, and Information

The Co-op strives to educate the members and public through various means. The Workers Assembly and Board of Directors publish monthly articles about topics related to our mission and vision. Black Star members are leaders in the cooperative community and actively participate in the governance and training of other cooperatives and allies. 

6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives

Black Star is a member of several cooperative associations and organizations, including: the National Cooperation Business Association, the Austin Cooperative Business Association, and the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives. Workers and members serve on board of other cooperative businesses, non-profits, and associations. Black Star actively works to promote and support other cooperative businesses whenever possible.

7. Concern for Community

Our work for the sustainable development of our communities is approved by the members through our Ends Policies. We are proud to offer as many locally sourced, quality goods as possible. We work with local businesses to keep our money in the Central Texas economy, and we’re proud to be one of the first LEED gold certified brewpubs in the country.

Worker Spotlight: Macy

What do you do at Black Star Co-op? 

I work on the pub team, and laugh without smiling. 

Where are you from? 

Austin born and raised! We’re rare these days. My friends call me the last unicorn. 

What’s you favorite beer currently on tap?

Sculpin IPA, it’s so damn good!

What’s your favorite late night drunk snack?

Pizza 4EVER.

What’s the last book you read? 

The Shining by Stephen King. 

What’s your favorite cooperative principal? 

Cooperation. Seeing so many people work collectively is really awesome. 

If time were no issue, which completely impractical skill would you work to perfect? 

Hair Braiding. It’d be cool to be able to do complicated intricate braids on myself. 

How many forks are there in a formal place setting (please don’t use Google)? 

3? I know there’s at least a salad, entre, and dessert fork… Right? 

First and last song on your perfect party playlist? 

First: Elton John – The Bitch is Back
Last: Elton John – Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me

What Is the Title of Your Future Memoir?

I <3 Cats, and it’d just be a chronology of all the cats i’ve had throughout my life. 



State of the Co-op Union

Hi everyone! 

Fall is here, which means it’s time for our fall Members’ Assembly meeting! I wanted to review a few of the things we’ll be doing at our fall meeting. 

Board Elections: We’ll be hearing from the folks who are running for the Board. Voting for your Board of Directors is a very important way you can participate in the management and governance of your business. The Directors represent your best interests, so make your voice heard! It’s always an exciting time when we seat new Directors because new ideas and perspectives refresh and invigorate our vision of the future and our understanding of how we fit into the local economy and the global co-op community. If you haven’t yet reviewed the candidates, please do so here

Bylaws Updates: Occasionally, we need to vote on things together that involve changes to some of our policies or bylaws. This fall, we are proposing three changes to the bylaws: 

1) Reduce the mandatory number of Members’ Assembly meetings from three to two. When we wrote our bylaws back in 2006, we were meeting three times a year: once in the spring, once in the fall, and once for a big party somewhere along the way. Now that we’re open for business, we have member-owner events throughout the year as well as our spring and fall MA meetings. Changing this language will not impact our meeting frequency; we’re aligning our bylaws with current practice. 

2) Remove language about the number of meetings the Board of Directors holds per year. The bylaws require the Board to meet 12 times a year. However, sometimes due to a variety of reasons it’s difficult or perhaps unnecessary to meet that many times. We want to remove the mandate of 12 meetings per year so each Board can have the flexibility to decide a schedule that works out best for them and for the health of our business. 

3) Change the name of our standing committee. Our standing committee is responsible for recruiting new Directors and ensuring that we have a healthy pool of leaders in our membership. The committee is currently called the Member Linkage Committee, but we feel this title does not accurately describe the charter of the committee or its responsibilities. We propose to change the title of the committee to the Leadership Development Committee. Nothing about the committee’s charter otherwise will be changed. 

Vision Discussion: This fall, we’ll also be engaging in a group interactive discussion about the vision of our expansion and how we can contribute to that development as member-owners. We’re still working out the details of that discussion, and the more people who get involved the more fun and dynamic it will be. Come with your ideas and enthusiasm!

The Members’ Assembly meetings are fun, informal ways to learn about your co-op, get involved, and get reacquainted with old and new member-owner buddies. They are also your opportunities to participate in the democratic operations of your business. I hope to see many of you on October 26th

Erin O’Bryant is the President of the Black Star Co-op Board of Directors. She’s not a’scared of nothin’ never. *raises her fists with pugilistic bravado