A new taproom in the works in Columbia will let customers choose their brew and also what nonprofit organization their beverage purchase will benefit in the Midlands.
While the business platform of ExGratia Brewing (ExGratia means done from a sense of moral obligation rather than because of any legal requirement) is unusual, it might not be the most surprising part of the business. The biggest surprise is perhaps in who is spearheading the opening of the bar: a local Lutheran minister.
"As a pastor, I am often approached by organizations that do amazing work for our community raising money or awareness because they lack funding or volunteers," said Seth Gibson, a Lexington native and Lutheran minister at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Columbia and St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Blythewood.
Over the past 12 months, Gibson and his friends and colleagues saw a strong need for authentic gracious community, and help in funding non-profit growth in the area. During the same time, they noticed the craft beer market continue to grow nationally and here in the Midlands.
"The light bulb went off, and we thought, 'What if we took a brewery and smashed it together with a non-profit to create an economic engine that creates an amazing product, connects the public to amazing organizations working to help our community thrive, and we give all of our net profits to those organizations so they can spend less time seeking funding and more time serving the community and doing what they are really feel called to do,'" Gibson said.
Gibson also plans to use the brewery as a meeting space for hosting events and allowing various nonprofits to host collaborative meetings, networking and support.
"We haven’t even started fundraising yet and my email is blowing up with people sending us resumes and lining up to volunteer in the taproom," Gibson said.
Gibson's vision for the taproom is this: When customers check out after enjoying their favorite beverage, they get to choose from the list of non-profits the taproom sponsors at that time and decide where the net profits from their orders will go. There will also be a place for people to give additional funds to those organizations.
While no location has been selected, the ExGratia board of directors is currently looking to start the non-profit brewery in Columbia, West Columbia or Cayce.
"We had a fantastic meeting with the mayors office of Cayce and look forward to connecting with other local leaders who want to see something vibrant, and that works to give back established in our community," Gibson said. "Fingers crossed, we are looking to be open to the public sometime late 2018 early 2019."
Currently, the board is waiting on paperwork filings with the South Carolina Secretary of State and approval 501(c)3 status.
"Once we have those, we can begin our capital campaign to raise the $2 million for a debt -opening and out of that fund raising effort we plan make a financial contribution to local non-profit organizations," Gibson said. "So our time line has a number of variables but our team is working hard to make sure we move as expeditiously as possible. Right now, we are trying to get the word out about our new mission here in the area, so that once our 501(c)3 status is approved we can seek financial donations and corporate sponsorships."