Black-owned Bay Area brewery among few in the nation

Craft breweries and pubs have been devastated by coronavirus shutdowns downs with many of them already gone and more coming every day. 

One Bay Area brewer, the only African American owned brewery in Northern California and one of a handful nationwide, is among the survivors. In fact, in all of America, there are only about 60 African American owned breweries.

Speakeasy is owned by a businessman man who gives back to the overall community in many ways, including serving as the president of the Port of Oakland's Board of Directors.

Instead of retiring, Ces Butner, who sold a highly successful beverage distribution he built for 30 years, purchased San Francisco's Speakeasy Ales & Lager brewery near Hunter's Point. 

"Speakeasy was a wonderful product. It was an institution in San Francisco and it was going onto hard times and I wanted to save it. That's why I bought it," said Butner.

Traditionally African Americans have not beer brewers, a business largely made up of German Americans for decades. Craft brewing and brewpubs, opened up the gates a bit. 

"But I'm not complaining; we've got to make do with what we have and try to make it successful," said Butner. 

He and about a fourth of the 60 or so black-owned breweries across the nation are working with a San Antonio brewer to make a positive impact in their own markets. 

"He lends out his recipe and everybody that picks it and tries to make the product and sells it, they will give back to the community in the Black Lives Matter efforts," said Butner.

Butner is also on the Board of Directors for the Oakland African American Chamber Of Commerce Resiliency Fund to assist the many black businesses that did not get federal pandemic relief funds. 

"That's why I would encourage everybody to buy African American owned, not only because it's the beer business for me, but African American businesses," said Butner.

When asked if the death of George Floyd and the nationwide outrage that followed would lead to racial equality, Butner said, "I'm hopeful that this time it will be different. It certainly feels different. It feels like we finally got to the point where we get it and we get it as a country."

The Marin Independent Journal ran an article on Thursday listing every black-owned businesses in the county, so people know how they can support.