“Never would a game of strip Twister be so badly regretted,” writes Lucrece Borrego in announcing the sudden closure of her innovative Downtown food-business incubator turned brewery-incubator business on the ground floor of the Bayou Lofts building at 907 Franklin St. An eviction notice the two-time startup-startup starter was handed by an attorney representing her landlord as Borrego was cooking for a steak-night “bottle share” event last Friday cited several reasons for the termination of her lease, most of them focusing on items encountered in a common-area hallway outside the business: empty beer kegs and boxes (Borrego says they were left after deliveries), “personal items” (likely including a motorcycle, a source tells Swamplot) — and a live game of naked Twister.
“Indeed,” Borrego writes, “I had agreed to host a naked game night: a completely private event that takes place at bars all over Houston regularly. We covered all the windows and had someone working the door. Only one thing went wrong.“
Borrego continues: “An employee of the architectural services firm next door that has access to our hallways was working long after business hours and stumbled up[on] a game of strip Twister in the hall. Whoever this person was, he or she had clearly never seen the naked male body before and took great offense to the incident, crying ‘public nudity’ to the landlord.”
The hallway where this close encounter took place serves as the wheelchair-accessible entrance to the ground-floor offices of Identity Architects at 111 Travis St.; it also provides access to the bathrooms shared by the 2 businesses. The floor plan at right, which depicts an early layout for Borrego’s first business in the space, shows the location of the shared hallway and bathrooms.
Borrego opened the Kitchen Incubator in the space in 2010, before the recent revitalization of neighboring Market Square. It served as host to 16 separate food-related startups, including Kickin’ Kombucha, Boomtown Coffee, Happier Desserts, Tavola Pasta Artigianale, Bravado Spice, and Cacao and Cardamom Chocolate. The space also was the site of pop-up dining events that helped launch various food-truck and restaurant businesses. After a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $36,000, Borrego and a partner transformed part of the space last year into what’s been described as the first-ever brewery incubator, called Brewery Incubator. The co-working brewery’s public storefront component was the League of Extraordinary Brewers, which operated as a brewpub and the site of regular pop-up brewing events.
The incubators’ landlord is Denver-based Byers Street Properties, which purchased the retail and office space on the ground floor of the Bayou Lofts building last year. An attorney for the company tells Culturemap’s Eric Sandler that the company had delivered “similar letters” detailing complaints to Borrego in June and July. But invitations to the Naked Game Night event on the night of July 29th indicate that the event was the League of Extraordinary Brewers’ first of its kind.
A standing Facebook description of the mobile, clothing-optional Naked Tuesday events (held at various Houston locations since the turn of the century, whenever there’s a fifth Tuesday of the month) notes that it “is not a sex based event. Public sex acts are considered ‘not cool’ and may make others uncomfortable.”
The eviction notice gave the businesses 5 days to vacate; according to Borrego, there were still 5 years left on the lease.
After consulting with attorneys, Borrego has elected not to fight her new landlord. “Essentially, I was faced with an indefinite expensive legal battle, or to abandon my life savings and dream,” she writes in a notice declaring the closure of the Brewery Incubator, the League Brewpub, and the Kitchen Incubator. “I’m not sure if that’s a decision anyone can really make. I can’t afford the legal battle. The decision was made for me. It’s that simple.”
Borrego tells Sandler she negotiated with the landlord for enough time to remove most of the brewing system, which was paid for by the Kickstarter campaign, and that she plans to spend the next few days “trying to salvage what I can.” A source tells Swamplot that an equipment-removal accident during the moveout flooded the space yesterday. The Brewery Incubator is planning a fundraising eviction party for its last night of business, this Saturday.
- Houston Losing Its Incubators- Evicted by New Out-of-State Developer [Brewery Incubator]
- Goodbye [Brewery Incubator]
- Downtown brewpub loses its lease over “Naked Twister” controversy; plans big farewell party [Culturemap]
- The Brewery Incubator: Co-working Brewery, Collaborative Pub [Kickstarter]
- Inside The World’s First “Brewery Incubator” [Fast Company]