A few days after he closed his restaurant for good, Kyle Pierson said he was standing in the front of his living room. Surrounding him were bourbon bottles, TV remotes and personnel files.
“It’s a bit of a whirlwind,” Pierson said. “There’s a lot to do to close down a business even if it’s not your decision.”
The Branch, a brewpub on Long Point Road, ended its run after five years – or to be precise, 1,904 days. Sunday was the restaurant’s final day of operations. According to Pierson, it was a matter of simple economics. They needed X number of customers but could only bring Y.
“We needed a certain amount of money to pay of our employees and taxes and I only made half. I made the decision to pay my employees, and I had no money to take care of the government stuff, and that was that.”
Those five years brought plenty of obstacles: Hurricane Harvey, a tornado that blew open one wall, the pandemic, the great resignation and finally the economic downturn. Pierson expressed pride at being able to navigate it all, but the typical summer slowdown that affects most restaurants proved insurmountable.
Also insurmountable was Pierson’s Crohn’s Disease.
“I’ve been hospitalized three times over the past year, and one of the things that inflames it is stress,” he said. “My healthcare is a full-time gig. That was part of the decision. If in five years, I couldn’t generate enough business so that I could step away from the company, it wasn’t going to happen in year 6.”
Pierson was previously the head bartender at Hay Merchant, the popular Montrose beer bar that closed last year. Houston Food Finder reported Pierson’s previous boss, Kevin Floyd, had opened a place close by — Shoot the Moon. That one closed in April.
If it seems Spring Branch might not want what Pierson and others are selling, that theory isn’t lost on him, either. The neighborhood is still transitioning, and Pierson said some “Memorial-ites” viewed Long Point Road as a scary place.
“One of the weird things about The Branch is we were infinitely more popular online than in real life,” he said. “If only 10 percent of the people who liked our posts would come in, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. We were never able to translate asses to seats.”
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At the moment, Pierson and his staff have begun divesting themselves of some of the restaurant’s equipment and other items. They had just recently donated their food stuffs to the Spring Branch American Legion Post 654. Soon enough, Pierson will sit down with an attorney to discuss next steps and declare corporate and personal bankruptcy.
His staff recently got together to set up a GoFundMe for Pierson to help him out with his legal and medical expenses,
“I’m surprisingly upbeat about everything,” he said. “It was a dream come true for me. It just ended up being a ‘careful of what you wish for’ kind of thing. It’s pretty cool to look back at what we did.”