While a tight labor market and rising costs have forced some breweries to scale back their food offerings, Nexus Brewery moved ahead with plans to more than double the space of its smokehouse.
The expansion increases the seating from 36 to more than 120, and adds a bar, a stage and a covered patio with heating. Nexus Blue Smokehouse features traditional barbecue items such as brisket, hot links and pulled pork with southern sides like fried okra, barbecue beans and macaroni and cheese.
The original location off Pan American Freeway NE is known for its soul food, one of the rare places to find such offerings in Albuquerque.
In 2019, Nexus launched its smokehouse in the old Elks Club at 1511 Broadway SE, which was once a gathering place for the city’s African American community. The building is near the South Broadway neighborhood where owner and former banker Ken Carson spent his youth. Carson, who is African American, said he took over the space because of its historical significance for the city’s Black community.
The current operation only occupies half the building. Carson said he hopes to open the newly remodeled room in early May.
The room has the new stage, televisions and a bar top. There will be 18 taps as compared to the 12 at the other location. The walls are decorated with mosaic tiles by artist Helen Atkins, and there is area in the back for meetings or private parties.
The addition will come with a slightly expanded menu, bringing over some of the appetizers offered at the other location. Carson said he also plans to feature different styles of barbecue from around the world.
“We want to do a different type of barbecue every month,” he said. “I went to 20 or 30 different barbecue places in Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Kansas to do research and try different barbecues before opening this.”
Music, Carson said, will eventually become a regular feature at the smokehouse. The inaugural group to take the stage will be a mariachi band at 3 p.m. on May 7 for the Cinco de Mayo celebration.
All brewing operations will continue to take place at the Pan American location but the brewery will launch a cocktail menu at the smokehouse.
Once things are up and running, Carson will turn his attention to the original Pan American location. They plan to add a 1,400-square-foot lounge with another bar. Customers can order cocktails and an abbreviated menu in there.
Carson said his customer numbers are now exceeding pre-pandemic levels. However, the hours and how much seating is available at any given time depends on whether he can adequately staff the restaurant. Carson, like many others in the restaurant industry, has had trouble finding and keeping staff.
Last week, Turtle Mountain Brewing Company owner Nico Ortiz said that starting April 25, they would be forced to close on Mondays after recently losing four cooks.
“I hope that this is only a temporary closure, but that all depends on whether or not we can find qualified people to help us out in the back of house,” Ortiz said. “This is the tightest labor market I have ever seen in my 23 years as a restaurant owner, and there appears to be no end in sight to the supply/demand issues we are facing.”