Long road pays off for Pittsburg brewery and tavern
By Rick Radin
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 07/29/2010 01:00:13 PM PDT
Updated: 07/30/2010 02:20:46 PM PDT
Click photo to enlarge
E.J. Phair at the Liberty Hotel restaurant in Pittsburg, Calif opened last week and is operated...
PITTSBURG — A brewery and tavern slated for a downtown building that the city's redevelopment agency spent more than $6 million to renovate is scheduled to open in October after four years of planning.
The E.J. Phair Brewing Co. will be in a brick building at Third and Cumberland streets that once housed the first Ford dealership on the West Coast, according to owner J.J. Phair.
Pittsburg's redevelopment agency pumped $6.5 million into buying the property and retrofitting the brick structure to house large tanks and other brewery equipment.
Phair said he dropped the idea of operating a restaurant in the space because it was too expensive to build a kitchen. Last week, he opened E.J. Phair across the street at the former Liberty Hotel in space that is already outfitted as a restaurant.
Once the brewery begins operations, Phair will pump his draft microbrews to the restaurant through pipes he has installed under Third Street.
The Pittsburg Planning Commission this week voted to allow Phair to change the use of the brewery from a restaurant to a tavern with pool tables, foosball and other games.
"A lot of the decision (not to put a restaurant into the brewery space) had to do with the way the economy was going," Phair said. "We decided to get the best of both worlds and a lot cheaper by using existing space."
The brewery project has been plagued by cost overruns. The City Council in December agreed to put $1.77 million more into the brewery for work to assure that the walls and floors can handle the weight of the brewery equipment.
Phair said he has contributed $400,000 to $500,000 in tenant improvements to the building.
"We basically gutted the building and had to start over," he said.
The city is eager for the brewery to open so that Phair can make money to buy the building from the city, said City Manager Marc Grisham.
Pittsburg has also used redevelopment money to build spaces for La Veranda, an Italian restaurant, the Pirates Cove frozen yogurt shop and Restaurant 615, an eatery that also serves the culinary arts program for Contra Costa College.
The restaurants form a nexus aimed at turning the city's downtown into a destination for East County residents looking for higher-end alternatives to chain restaurants, Grisham said.
"We're building a foody destination down here," he said.
Phair has operated the E.J. Phair Brewery and Alehouse on Salvio Street in Concord for five years; the business is named after his grandfather. He formerly brewed his own beer in Concord but sold that operation in 2009.
A restaurant that operated for more than a year in the Liberty Hotel space closed about a year ago.
Contact Rick Radin at 925-779-7166.
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