'This is my everything ... not knowing what happens next is tough'

Owner of 2 1/2-year-old local brewery talks about fears for the future

Two days after the governor announced the mandatory closure of all dine-in restaurants and bars in Colorado, Dave Gardner stood behind the bar of his passion project and only source of income: Max Taps Co. in Highlands Ranch.
With the bar stools turned upside down and the taproom empty, he talked March 18 about his fears, frustrations and hopes for the future.
“I'm not generally an emotional person, but I came here and cried at the bar,” Gardner said. “This is my everything. This is how I support my entire existence ... Not knowing what happens next is tough.”
Less than a week after the intial shut down, Gardner, 39, was given a "ray of sunshine," when Governor Jared Polis issued an executive order allowing bars and taprooms to package and sell their inventory for off-site consumption. While most breweries already have a manufacturer license to do this, bars and taprooms do not because of their tavern licenses. Polis' decree temporaily suspends these regulatory statutes.
"I just got this lifeline," Gardner said. "The fact that we were able to reopen is huge."
When the order came through Friday, March 20, Gardner and his wife worked diligently to change their entire business model to a drive-through system. Because they haven't been able to package their beer until now, they also had to find the appropriate equipment and materials, which are in short supply.
"The key to survival in this is being nimble and willing to change," he said.
Gardner was heartened by the amount of people who came out to buy cans from the shop over the weekend, he said.
"It makes me so thankful to be a part of this community," he said.
While its far from the same margins he was making as a fully-functional taproom, its much better than no income whatsoever, he said.
Gardner opened the taproom 2 1/2 years ago after working at Living The Dream Brewing Co. near Highlands Ranch. He had recently sold a piece of commercial property he owned and decided it was the best time to pursue his goal.
"I thought 'I've got one shot to do my own thing and what I always wanted to do — own a business,'" he said. "And if it failed, I was just going to go get the cubicle job I never wanted. But, fortunately, I didn't have to do that. It has worked."
The dream from the beginning was to have a small business that supported other small businesses in the state.
"Everything that we buy is Colorado," he said. "Every beer you buy here helps another small business in this state."
While many of his costs are now being mediated by the to-go income, his biggest expense is still looming: rent. As far as his landlord is concerned, the payment is still due next month, he said.
“I feel like there needs to be some sort of financial stop,” he said. “My rent goes to the landlord, landlord pays the mortgage. I think the landlord shouldn't have to pay the mortgage so I don't have to pay rent.”
The dine-in closure has forced Gardner, like many other owners of bars and restaurants, to lay off his employees, including his manager Alaine Walborn. As she tries to process what that means for her, she still spends time at the taproom.
“This was my only job, so it's not like I have something else to fall back on,” she said. “Right now, it's just uncertainty.”
Now that he can sell beer for pick-up, he's hopeful that he can hire one or two employees back, he said.
His next move is to try to shift the business model again, to completly contactless transactions to help people feel as secure as possible when buying, he said.
"I'm going to do whatever I can to stay in business," he said.
For now, Gardner remains optimistic about his business making it through the mandatory dine-in closure. But, he adds, that optimism is tempered by how long the closure will last and whether small businesses like his will receive any state or federal financial relief.
“On the other side of this,” he said, “we're going to have a big party.”
Those interested in purchasing beer to go from Max Taps Co. can visit their website,, for a list of beers and call 720-550-8914 to place an order. Curbside pickup is available at the 2680 East County Line Road taproom.


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