The Workshop going in at Half Mile North is expected to open in March 2016
On Mon. Dec. 7 Butcher & Bee owner Michael Shemtov launched a crowd-funding campaign to help complete The Workshop and Butcher & Bee Nashville. His Kickstarter goal is $70,000
“The funds we are raising will support creative projects inside of our restaurants — what we think of as the final 5-10 percent of the project, although aesthetically this work contributes to half or more of the final product,” reads the campaign copy.
According to the accompanying video, the funds raised will help pay for the work of over a dozen artisans hired by Butcher & Bee. But why is a man who owns two Mellow Mushrooms
, The Daily
, Butcher & Bee
(and is working on a new food court at Pacific Box & Crate
) looking for your donations?
Shemtov says that with the construction of The Workshop
and Butcher & Bee Nashville
, unexpected expenses have come up and by launching a Kickstarter page, he’s allowing the public to volunteer to be part of supporting those artists.
He told Eater Nashville
in an email,
“[O]ne of the reasons [for the campaign] which I’ve thought about a great deal is that the artwork and finishes happen at the end, once you’ve already gone over budget (and past your timeline) on construction, furniture, pre-opening rent, etc. People probably don’t realize it but starting this fall, every day we went over schedule was another $2K in additional costs (rent, payroll, overhead, construction overruns). This stacks up quick and what happens is you tend to squeeze the elements that come in at the end — which is actually the stuff that really makes the aesthetic.”
Fearing he’d have to cut some of the finer details — things like a hand-made stereo system at B&B Nashville designed by Hazelwood Laboratories
and a special installation coming to The Workshop from Charleston artist Becca Barnett of Sisal & Tow
— Shemtov turned to Kickstarter.
“If people like our approach, like what we do, we’d love to have their support,” he says. “If not, no harm, no foul.”
If this sounds like a Hail Mary pass to get his restaurants off the ground, well, it sort of is because, Shemtov claims, he’s not some rich restaurateur rolling in dough. (Shemtov declined to share his salary, but does confirm that he earns an income from his ownership of Mellow Mushroom.)
“There’s a huge gap in understanding of what the restaurants do for the owner,” says Shemtov. “They see a place is packed and they say, ‘There’s a line at the door, they must be cutting it.’ But it took me three years before I took my first paycheck from Mellow Mushroom. The restaurants are more challenging than you see from the outside. It’s extremely hard to operate a business. There’s salaries, health insurance, all these things.”
Shemtov says that at Butcher & Bee he spends 80 percent on labor: “We’re trying to pay people as close as possible to a wage they can live on. We offer health insurance; we’re not required by law to do that. We’ve added 401K. We spend more money on staff than twice what the industry average is.”
So then why not just get another loan? Or halt one of the two restaurants projects to complete the other? Shemtov concedes he could do that. “If the Kickstarter fails, we’ll find another way to pay for them,” he says. “But these things will help people get paid faster and get what their work is worth. I could go out and raise more capital from a bank, go back to artists and say I need longer to pay, or charge me less, or I could look to our community and see what level of support we have.”
And while it might leave a bad taste in some people's mouths, Shemtov thinks restaurant crowd-sourcing is only going to grow in the coming years. “Banks aren’t rushing to lend money to restaurants,” he says.
Supporters of Butcher & Bee’s Kickstarter will receive several perks should the project get funded. A pledge of $30 will get you a Butcher & Bee hat and a hard-hat tour while $1,000 will get you a three-course dinner for two every month for a year. Another one: give $1,000-plus and you can get your very own Butcher & Bee email account. “The email address is a fun vanity thing,” explains Shemtov. “That’s just for a person who likes us and thinks its a fun idea. We tried to get creative with some of the rewards.”
Ultimately Shemtov says the Kickstarter isn’t a request to have the public pay for his debt. "It's by no means meant to pull one over on people," he says. "No one has to do it. It’s an idea that we thought could work. If it doesn’t than it doesn’t.”