Vine Street Pub and Brewery sits comfortably on the corner of 17th Street and Vine Street in Denver, CO. One of the most intriguing elements that makes Vine Street unique is the fact that if you can’t pay right then and there, you can simply take a Karma IOU and pay the restaurant back in the days that follow.
Oh and it’s not just one brewpub that embraces this model, it is the entire Mountain Sun Pubs and Breweries organization that puts it into play. Mountain Sun is a Colorado-centric brewpub and it has three locations in Boulder, one in Denver and one in Longmont. You can go to any of these restaurants and find that they employ this method.
The brewpub does not take credit cards, as it only accepts checks and cash, and this is why Kitchen Manager and Head Chef David Lawrence told byteclay.com they provide Karma IOUs as a courtesy to its patrons. That said, if you do not have cash on hand and but you still want to pay, the restaurant has an ATM inside of it where folks can withdraw cash.
There is no catch with the Karma IOUs, as the business doesn’t keep track of names, addresses, emails or anything like that. Additionally, there is no deadline for when a person must pay back the bill. I’ve never personally done this, but the brewpub gives people a simple letter envelope, which they then can return with cash or a check in it at a later date. You might sit there and think this isn’t something that will work in the long-run but Mountain Sun has been doing it successfully for years.
“We actually for years didn’t even keep track of [IOUs paid and IOUs unpaid], for almost the 20 years we’ve been doing it.” During my last visit to the Vine Street location, I heard the return rate of Karma IOUs was around 95 percent, though that wasn’t an official figure. “They are still keying in what the actual return rate is.”
It seems like the brewpub’s mindset is if they get some Karma envelopes today, that’s cool, and if not, they’ll receive them in the days that follow. Mountain Sun doesn’t seem to keep close track of them, as it’s not something they necessarily think about on a day-to-day basis.
“There’s no [deadline] really. We just have a normal letter envelope. When the guest doesn’t have the cash or check, we just take their [bill] and put it into an envelope and they can mail a check or cash in. There’s no timeframe or penalty if they don’t pay. We don’t write down who they are or anything like that,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said their business isn’t hurt by the envelopes they don’t receive, but this is only true because the vast majority of people are honest and responsible about paying back what they owe. “I’ve worked here for two and a half years and no one has ever taken advantage of [the system].”
It’s refreshing to hear of an approach like this to business and that people are respecting it, particularly in this day and age. For the beer heads that are interested, the beers at any of the locations are excellent and feature a wide variety of ales to choose from. Mountain Sun also features guest beers from breweries around the area. This company has a lot of great things going for it and you can tell their success is born from their philosophy:
“At the Mountain Sun Pubs and Breweries our mission is to offer five-star service, fresh, high quality pub fare and finely crafted brews for affordable prices in an environment that’s comfortable like your living room. There will never be televisions at our pubs because we want our guests to meet and discuss the world in which we live or simply to play Scrabble. We maintained this mission at our newest eatery and pizzeria, Under the Sun. Â Centered around a wood-burning oven, our entree-driven menu is presented to you with the same love you’ve come to expect at one of our pubs.
“We believe our approach to the service industry is unique and worth noticing. Your server today may be cooking your food tomorrow, or even managing. We all work as a team to bring you the best service, food and finely crafted beer we can.”