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UNM closer to launching taproom on campus

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

University of New Mexico officials say they have secured funding for an on-campus taproom.

Now they want to know if any local breweries want to be part of it.

Administrators in August cited financing as the chief challenge to building a taproom on campus. An evaluation of one design idea put costs at about $1.3 million, officials from UNM’s Institutional Support Services said at the time.

Associate VP Chris Vallejos

But ISS Associate Vice President Chris Vallejos told the Journal in an email this week that “funding has been secured” for a taproom project, though he would not provide specific details until presenting the plan at a Board of Regents committee meeting next month.

UNM’s food vendor, Chartwells, recently started assessing local breweries’ interest in a potential UNM taproom. Chartwells issued a “request for information” to see if existing breweries would consider various levels of partnership with Chartwells and UNM — from offering guidance on the project to making an investment or operating the space under their brand as a subcontract vendor receiving a percentage of gross sales.

Responses are due next month.

John Gozigian of the New Mexico Brewers Guild circulated the document to members this week and said it has garnered some attention. While the request for information offered few logistical details about any potential arrangement — including the associated licensing issues — Gozigian said he gets the appeal.

John Gozigian

“If I had a brewery, I would be interested in that location for sure,” he said, though he added that it might have a limited customer base composed primarily of faculty, staff and students.

“It’s hard to say how much business they would do. A lot of students are not of drinking age,” Gozigian said. “It’s obviously going to be a captive audience; I don’t think you’re going to get people from outside the university.”

Taprooms already abound in the UNM area. Bosque Brewing Co. and Kaktus Brewing Co. each have locations near the campus’ southeast boundary, while Kellys, Tractor Brewing Co. and Hops Brewery have sites in Nob Hill.

The area also boasts many bars and other beer-serving establishments, which would deter La Cumbre Brewing Co. from setting up its own taproom at UNM.

La Cumbre President Jeff Erway said he does not want to directly compete with his wholesale customers.

“I’m more than happy to consult with (UNM), and I’m also more than happy to sell them beer, but, no, I’m not interested in partnering with the university in a business model,” he said.

Erway does expect other local breweries to consider it.

“If you’re not very competitive already in that market, and you’re a fairly new brewery operation and looking to expand your brand presence and looking for another outlet for your beer, that could end up being a good deal for you,” he said.