When I moved to Chula Vista in early 2010, one of the first things I did was Google search for the nearest brewery. There was only one within 20 miles; the soon-to-be shuttered Brew House at Eastlake. Six years later, things are finally looking up. Way up. The city of 250,000 is on the cusp of a craft beer renaissance.
Two breweries and a taproom are slated to open on Third Avenue in downtown Chula Vista, and the city is actively courting more, said Scott Donaghe, principal planner for the city.
“I think the thing that’s different about Chula Vista is from the mayor and city manager on down there’s an open-arms policy towards these kinds of businesses,” he said. “Not just craft beer, but craft businesses.”
Third Avenue has one taproom already, Third Avenue Ale House (319 Third Ave.), which opened last October. Co-owner Kendell Manion said the city was easy to work with.
“Our experience has been nothing but supportive,” she said, noting that a permit for an outdoor patio was recently approved.
3 Punk Ales (259 Third Ave.), which currently brews on contract at Butcher’s Brewing in Santee, is aiming for a September opening of a brew house and tasting room one block north of Third Avenue Ale House. Co-owner Steve Garcia also praised the city as willing partners.
“So far, it’s been epic,” he said. “They’re backing us on a lot of issues.”
On the same block, Chula Vista Brewery (294 Third Ave.) will also be open by the end of summer. Owner Tim Parker said loans have been approved and its brew tanks ordered. He also praised the process with the city.
“It’s been pretty easy,” he said. “Scott Donaghe has been helpful.”
Donaghe’s name comes up frequently among the members of the newly formed South Bay Beer Business Guild, an organization spearheaded by La Bella Pizza (373 Third Ave.) general manager Dr. Gonzalo Quintero.
Quintero’s brother-in-law, Tony Raso, is opening the Biere Café (415 Third Ave.) this fall.
“Scott (Donaghe) has kind of been my point guy in planning,” he said. “Even the mayor is really supportive.”
Raso’s family owns La Bella Pizza, a Chula Vista institution that has been open for 61 years. Since Quintero introduced a craft beer program business at La Bella’s has picked up, he said.
Raso, who also works at Fall Brewing in North Park, said part of his job is to check for identification for drinking age and that he has noticed a trend. “There’s a bunch of kids from Chula Vista who come to North Park to drink beer,” he said. “I’d say one out of five or six I check are from Chula Vista.”
Not just the young trek north for beer.
“We see even old people like me driving to North Park for the beer and we ask, ‘Why?’” said Donaghe. “We’re the second biggest city in the region. I think we’re doing more than anyone right now to reach out to the craft beer business.”
“Once everything opens, we can create something that’s a draw as a neighborhood,” said Raso. “You can just walk or Uber in really cheap and enjoy your hometown instead of driving 20 minutes or Ubering $50 to get home.”
Quintero is optimistic for what a fully realized redevelopment of Third Avenue will look like.
“I don’t like to say it, but it could be like the next North Park,” he said. “[But] a more family-centric beer destination. There’s dense family housing in the area. Schools. It’s already walkable. We’re going to have world-class bars, breweries and amazing restaurants.”
Attempting to rival North Park might seem a herculean task, but for the people who live in the South Bay, it is a worthwhile endeavor.
Donaghe stressed the ongoing efforts of the city to develop Third Avenue.
“We’re open for business,” he said.