Bloomington’s Pourhouse Cafe announced Oct. 16 that it was closing, an announcement that was met with sadness by many of the popular coffee spot’s patrons.
The nonprofit, which has donated more than $200,000 to charity since it opened in May 2008, has been a common meetup spot for students, residents and travelers. However, a string of events related to COVID-19 forced the Pourhouse to close its doors.
“When we entered this year 2020, we were on as solid footing as we had been in 13 years,” said Neal Daunhauer, president of the Pourhouse Board of Directors. “We have over 400 donors who help support the Pourhouse, and our culture and staff were as connected as ever before.”
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic cleared Bloomington’s streets of students and residents began staying home, the Pourhouse made the decision to close temporarily.
A loan through the CARES Act paid Pourhouse employees through the summer, and the Pourhouse reopened its doors in August. However, when time came to renew the Pourhouse’s lease, their landlord introduced a new policy requiring a minimum three-year lease with a 5% increase in yearly lease payments.
“It was quite untimely I will say, from the landlord’s perspective, to pose the three-year rent,” Daunhauer said. “But we understand. It’s a business and everybody is trying to do their best.”
The Pourhouse planned a capital campaign to raise $300,000 to keep the expensive Kirkwood Avenue location open.
“We were actually on a pretty good pathway, and then we saw sales drop down below 50%,” Daunhauer said.
In the end, it was the interplay of the lease updates, the decrease in sales and IU's students leaving that caused the Pourhouse to close its doors and leave its large location on Kirkwood.
The Pourhouse intends to reopen in the future at a different location, Daunhauer said.
“We got together as a board and we made a decision to enter what we’re calling a close and recover plan,” Daunhauer said. “It hopes that when the market returns and the students have a more normal life cycle here at IU that we’ll be ready to open.”
Brady Smith, Pourhouse operations manager, said they have been taking the process one step at a time.
“We intend to begin looking for a new home that makes sense for us in the coming years,” Smith said.
The closing has been bittersweet for employees.
Kelsey Matthias, who has been working as a barista at the Pourhouse since August 2019, said the Pourhouse has made her feel welcomed since the day she started.
When asked what her favorite memory from the Pourhouse was, Matthias paused.
“I feel like the Pourhouse has provided so many beautiful moments that it’s hard to put it into words,” she said.
Pourhouse memories are better described by category, Smith said.
“I don't know that I can narrow it down to any one particular memory, but I can easily pick out a ‘category’ of memories I hold most dearly,” Smith said. “Without a doubt, it's the people.”
Daunhauer said he wants to make sure the Pourhouse continues its mission to donate to those in need.
“One of the components of our mission is that we give to those who are underserved and we support those who can’t support themselves,” Daunhauer said. “But we also teach our community to be better givers.”