More of a museum than a restaurant. More of a shrine than a business. The Crystal Beer Parlor at 301 W. Jones St. has been a Savannah staple for generations − since 1933, to be exact – and the interior serves as a community time capsule, its walls covered with old photographs of local and national heroes, some connected to the Crystal’s regular customers.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has hit this iconic Savannah eatery hard, and now it is in danger of closing its doors. In an appeal to the community to keep suds flowing here for generations to come, regular patron Don Teuton recently launched a GoFundMe page titled “Save The Crystal Beer Parlor!” with a goal of raising $150,000. By the afternoon of Monday, Dec. 14, just over $35,000 had been collected in the online fundraising effort.
While many of Savannah’s small businesses are struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic, the Crystal’s situation is especially dire due to a major expense the business endured last year.
“The floor that was in the kitchen was old,” said Crystal Beer Parlor owner John Nichols. “Just from settling or whatever, there would be these hairline cracks between the tiles, and water would seep under the tiles. The health department told us that we needed to replace the floor.”
After three weeks of being shut down due to the needed upgrades, which included replacing a grease trap with a crane, the damage was roughly $94,000, according to Teuton’s GoFundMe page.
Then a few months later the pandemic hit, and the Crystal shut down for five months. The restaurant received funds through the federal Paycheck Protection Plan, and used the money for rent, utilities, insurance, and payroll. However, since reopening its doors in August, business hasn’t been quite the same.
“It’s the independent businesses that really need the support from the people around them,” said Nichols. “That’s America’s heartbeat, as far as I’m concerned.”
The Crystal has adapted to COVID-19 precautions in an attempt to survive. They’ve added an extended outdoor-seating section, placed a walk-up table near the entrance equipped with a sanitizing station for to-go orders, and developed a new way to order online via their crystalbeerparlor.com website.
As the restaurant’s financial situation grows increasingly dire, Nichols is thinking up ways to generate additional revenue.
“I’m toying around with the idea of making some of our food products available on Goldbelly,” said Nichols. “It’s a website that offers foods from independent restaurants around the country and you have them shipped to your door. One of our customers who lives in Kansas proposed the idea.”
While the future of the Crystal is hazy, one thing is certain: the community does not want to lose one of its favorite local hangouts, a place where people from all walks of life have shared lasting memories.
“You can have a CEO of a major corporation in one booth and the guy who does his plumbing in the next,” said Nichols. “It appeals to a very broad spectrum of the population. Guys come here with their father for their first beer. People have gotten engaged here. They celebrate major milestones in their lives, birthdays, graduations, babies being born, all that stuff. It’s such a warm and cozy place and people feel comfortable here.”