FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — JUNE 26, 2013 —
By Steve Marschke
One of the first things into the re-purposed “Pioneer Bluffs” area of West Sacramento may be a brewery and beer garden from a principal at the former “Brew It Up!” restaurant in downtown Sacramento. Mike Costello, the former president, general manager and CEO at that establishment, said last week his current group is “very close” to signing a lease on South River Road.
Costello aims to create a “regional draw,” saying “we’re really excited about being able to fill in the gap for casual, family-friendly dining.”
He declined to specify the exact site under negotiations, but acknowledged it is on South River Road, south of the Pioneer Bridge freeway overpass, and not directly on the water.
“It’s huge – more than 20,000 square feet,” he added, saying the site will likely be home to other tenants including, possibly, a farmers’ market and a coffee roaster. Those tenants, too, could come in quickly.
“Our goal is to be brewing in four months, and have the pub fully outfitted in six months,” said Costello. “It’s on the Pioneer Bluffs, so its name will have something to do with Pioneer Bluffs.”
Those bluffs are most notable where the deep water ship canal currently severs South River Road. But the City of West Sacramento is now proceeding on a long-planned new bridge to connect South River Road across this canal, linking the city’s eastern riverfront from Southport to the freeway and Bridge District. The new brewery and commercial center could be the first major tenant in as the “Pioneer Bluffs” begin an expected transition from older industrial uses to a more urban, riverfront style.
What is on tap, so to speak, at the new establishment?
“There will be a beer garden and outdoor event space,” said Costello. “There will be a personal brewery (where customers can make their own beer). That’s one of the things that sets this brewery. . . . apart from every other craft brewer in Northern California. It creates a fun relationship with customers.”
“Brew It Up!” went out of business in 2011 after about eight years in Sacramento and about seven previous years in Davis. Costello said there were some lessons learned, and there will be adjustments to the business plan.
“The big, glaring mistake we made. . . was to walk in on day one with two much debt,” he said. “We also had a lease structure that started out all right, but over the years increased as most leases do.”
The economy also took a toll, and the menu probably overreached.
“Conceptually, one of some of the things we realized we probably should have changed was to tighten the menu, tighten the focus,” he said.
“This will be a much tighter-focused menu. . . really creative and tasty hot sandwiches, and a good set of entrée salads, and a great set of appetizers that will go well with beer. We’ll tighten up the wine menu and the liquor menu. The focus will be on the beer side.”
“There will be about 30-36 taps, with maybe 20 or two dozen of our own (beers) and a great selection of guest taps.”
“Our target is to produce about 1,200 barrels a year in the first year,” said Costello. That’s 37,200 gallons, at 31 gallons per barrel. The new brewery will focus on on-site sales at first, because that’s where the higher profit margins are.
Special events and outdoor events will be stressed – and some of those could even begin within the next few months, said Costello.
“Of course we’re going to do Brew Fest, also Oktoberfest,” he commented. “One of the other ideas we have is to do a huge pumpkin carving festival. And we could start doing some food trucks and festivals on the site as soon as we get the lease, just to draw attention.”
About a dozen investors are involved, reports Costello, adding that his role will be that of an employee.
At “Brew It Up!,” said Castillo, “I was president, C.E.O., general manager and all that. Basically, this time around, I’ll be general manager. I’ll have a front house manager, a kitchen manager. I’ll be involved in the brewing, but there will be a team of brewers.”
The year 2013 seems to be a big one for beer brewing in West Sacramento. Sacramento’s Rubicon Brewing is opening a production facility near Ikea, and a couple of “nano-breweries” called Jackrabbit and Bike Dog plan to open up near Industrial Boulevard and the port.
Costello believes this growth is partly because of brewery-friendly zoning laws in West Sacramento. It may be easier to navigate the red tape here than it is across the river, he said.
The brewery appears to be landing in this city after a regional site search.
“Over the last year and a half, we’ve been looking at dozens of sites downtown (Sacramento), eastern Sacramento and in West Sacramento,” he reported.
“As I talk to other businesses. . . there is definitely a sense of West Sacramento being more attuned to start-ups in the beverage industries,” said Costello. “The zoning changes they made here really make it simple for a star-up brewery, or even an existing brewery, to do business.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there are two or three more on our heels that decide to land over here, which is going to make this city alone a real destination for beer tourists.”
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