As the Adams Morgan seafood spot was preparing to open, co-owner Justin Abad says he and business partner/chef John Manolatos had so many friends and regulars from their other restaurant Cashion's Eat Place who wanted to support and be involved in the place. But not everyone has the cash to throw down tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for an equity stake. "I said, 'Well, how can we do it where they really feel a sense of ownership?'" Abad says. "And frankly, it will be very good for business if we can get them to continue to feel a part of it."
Before they even signed the lease, Abad read about a Minnesota brewpub that similarly offered free beer for life for $1,000. The brewpub had tried to find traditional investors for the $220,000 it needed to open, but it backed away from those investors, who had no restaurant experience, because they wanted a voting share in the business. Instead, they funded the entire place through free beer memberships. "They were really successful in doing it," Abad says. And the supporters didn't drink them dry.
Pop's is offering only 20 memberships, which will be available through the end of November. Already, three people have bought them. (Visit freebeer.popsseabar.com/free-beer-for-life to join them.)
These VIP members will get cards with their names that they present every time they visit Pop's. While members can't buy their friends beers, there's no limit to the number of beers they can drink. "If you want to sit down and crush 10, go ahead," Abad says. The deal lasts the life of the business and includes all draft and can beers (including the radlers) plus Prosecco on tap.
If you're wondering about the math on this, the most expensive beer at Pop's is $8 (most, however, are $6), so you'd have to drink 125 of those to break even on the investment. That's around three beers a week during the course of a year.
Abad is not concerned about losing money on the deal, especially because he anticipates people will order food and bring friends. "I ran the numbers, and sure it impacts our bottom line a little bit," he says. "But I think that most valuable thing really is the good will."
Photo via Pop's SeaBar