MOLINE, Ill. — Bier Stube in Moline and Blue Cat Brewing Co. in Rock Island are closing their doors for the time being after the recent winter storm over Christmas weekend water pipes, causing both businesses to flood.
Each business was trying to stay afloat for at least a year before the pipes burst, but the recent cold weather seemed to have expedited the writing on the walls.
For father and son Bier Stube co-owners Bob and Dieter Rebitzer, the water pipes in the apartment above their restaurant broke around 3:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve, triggering the fire sprinklers in the restaurant.
"[The fire sprinklers were] designed to stop a cataclysmic failure here and it created one," said Bob Rebitzer. "And once everything was finally filled up, we had probably four inches in some places in the basement. "
The Reibtzers said water dripping from above broke holes in the kitchen ceiling, flooded the basement, corroded most electronic equipment and warped the wooden floors in the main foyer.
"[We're] probably gonna be closed for, I would say at least four or five months at least," said Dieter Rebitzer. "And we have to see if we can even afford to open up again, because business was so bad."
They say the damages total over $20,000, putting a damper on the hopes of quickly turning the restaurant around. They haven't made a profit since 2021, and Dieter says he's almost emptied his personal retirement fund to keep Bier Stube afloat.
"Problem is you can't find anybody who wants to work [or] cooks. You can't find any cooks anymore. You can find any [service] people anymore. It's a very difficult situation," said Dieter.
The Rebitzers blame COVID-19, inflation, lack of staffing and rising wages for the years-long decline of their business.
"It's just a constant... it's a struggle," Bob said. "It's a headache. You think that with that whole psychology of 'things will get better,'' it'll get back to the way we used to be [but] there's so many headaches. All of these critical elements of ingredients for staffing [and] income, they all have to work in unison and it's a complex system. And when one element doesn't work, then it kind of fades the whole system entirely. And it makes it extremely frustrating."
The Rebitzers have one other location in LeClaire, but for Blue Cat Brewing Co. co-owner Charlie Cole, he has just one location. And the winter weather's effects were just the "nail in the coffin."
The pub announced on its Facebook page Tuesday that it was closing its doors for the foreseeable future starting January 1, 2023.
Like Bier Stube, Blue Cat Brewing Co. had water pipes burst, flooding the business, but it also has a furnace breakdown.
"It definitely hurt our staff from them not having to work a little bit of sales but definitely [it was bad luck that it] just happened during two of the busiest weeks of the year for us. So not a good time for a cold to happen like that," said co-owner Charlie Cole.
Cole said his business was booming and profitable but its downfall was that its head chef left to start his own business, leaving Cole, an experienced brewmaster, to run a restaurant; an entirely different job.
"He was definitely a cornerstone person here," Cole said. "You know, between him and I, we were managing all of the staff jointly. So he was running the entire back of house, I was running the entire front of house"
The closure is a decision that Cole didn't make lightly.
"We didn't want to put out poor service, poor quality, we didn't want to just keep limping by and have that affect our reputation and our product. We didn't want to hurt our staff and over overwork them and burn them out."
Cole says he's been splitting all of his tips received since the closure announcement to every single one of his staff as a way to help them out during the sudden transition and as a gesture of appreciation.
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