After nearly a quarter century of brewing beers, serving burgers and presenting bands, the original owners of the brewery are selling their beloved restaurant and brewery on West Montecito Street in Santa Barbara. The new owners — both longtime customers raised on the Mesa, including a current employee — plan to bring renewed energy and much-needed investment to the establishment, which is the city’s oldest brewery.
“It’s going to be a different life suddenly not constantly thinking about brewing,” said current co-owner Pete Johnson, who joined the restaurant as brewmaster shortly after Gary Jacobson and Barbara Long founded it in 1998. “I’m 67. and the youngest of the three of us. The place could use a little more support. Hope the new guys keep it about the same, keep it cool and fix a few little things that have been neglected for a while.
Buyers at the brewery are Grant Danely and Joal Clayton, who both grew up a few miles away and have frequented the restaurant since it opened.
“Our goal is just to refresh it and keep it going for another 24 years,” said Danely, who started working at the Brewhouse more than a year ago after being laid off from his job as a bartender at Coral Casino for a while. COVID. “Hopefully we’ll be in our 60s by then and give it to someone else.”
The grandson of the founder of Jolly Tiger restaurants in Santa Barbara, Clayton comes from a longtime family that grows orchids and now rents out its five acres of Carpinteria land as a warehouse to fishermen and others. A part-time realtor, Danely worked in tile and stone construction before working at the Coral Casino, but started in restaurants when he was just 12, working for Rick’s Pizza on the Mesa, Mesa Cafe and Cliff. & Co.
“I’ve been to restaurants my whole life,” Danely said. “It’s something I feel really good about and love doing.”
He dreamed of one day opening a taqueria in New Zealand, until he realized Brewhouse ownership seemed to be losing interest. He approached Johnson in December and they began to negotiate. Danely and Clayton expect to snag the license soon, although the escrow isn’t expected to close until next month.
They would like to start cleaning outdoor areas right away, then may close briefly during the low season in January to do interior renovations. But they won’t shut down during the transition — in fact, they’ve ordered the full NFL package for the season and may even bring back Monday Night Football promotions. “We want to make hay while the sun is shining,” Danely said.
Longtime manager Maria Yapur, who first worked there 19 years ago and has worked there for 11, said the sale comes after a tumultuous period for the restaurant. The unrest began in April 2017 with a fire that halted operations for a few months, then came the Thomas Fire in December, followed by the debris flow in January and the pandemic in 2020.
“It’s gotten to the point where we don’t really have any money in the bank to fix things,” she said. “It’s getting harder and harder.”
Yapur confirmed that the brewery remains a busy place, although the nearby Funk area and several breweries attract some of the younger crowds. “We’re still the only brewery that has a full bar and kitchen,” she said.
When asked why the brewery became so popular years ago, Johnson couldn’t say exactly. “None of us really knew what we were doing – we were just having fun,” said the former NASA rocket scientist whose home-brewing hobby turned into his second act. “Maybe that was part of it. We had fun, and so did everyone. »
The food cooked by co-owner Jacobson, who developed the restaurant after serving as chef at the Brewhouse Grill on State Street, was an early calling card. “That’s what put us on the map: the food was really good,” Johnson said. “I didn’t need to know what kind of beer would attract people. We already had a full house.”
On a personal note, the first food and drink article I wrote over 20 years ago was about the brewery. I was a regular in those post-college days, often feasting on macadamia-crusted halibut and gorgonzola salad while others devoured enchiladas and filet mignon stroganoff. I interviewed Johnson shortly after he started brewing beer and wrote about how co-owner “Barb” Long took the stage with her guitar to sing a few tunes. “You called us ‘The Hub of Hip,'” Johnson recalled.
He thinks the transition to new ownership should be “fairly seamless”, particularly on the brewery side, as Casey Smith, who has been handling day-to-day brewing for years now, remains on board. “There will be no drop in quality,” Johnson said. “It’ll probably be better if he kicks me out.” If anything, Danely wants to increase distribution of the brewery’s beers to offsite locations, possibly even the Santa Barbara Bowl.
A farewell to Oktoberfest
The original owners don’t come out with a whimper. They are hosting a final Oktoberfest on October 7-8, expecting many former employees to make appearances in a big goodbye. “We’re starting on a good note and seeing if we can get some gemütlichkeit going,” Johnson said. “It’s a German word that has no direct translation, but it means a feeling of happiness, good times and togetherness. It is a key part of Oktoberfest in Germany. No one here has a clue about that word, but they all live gemütlichkeit.”
The annual Oktoberfest celebration — complete with tuba, schnitzel, bratwurst, and lederhosen bands — is one of the restaurant’s crowning glory, though other establishments around Santa Barbara now host their own. “We were the original,” Yapur said of the tradition that started around 20 years ago.
Along with improving things and focusing on expanding beer distribution, Danely, who has spent the past few days making chili as a prep cook in the kitchen, plans to keep everything the same, including including staff. He and Clayton set aside money for upgrades, but not tons, and they would welcome a financial partner. Either way, they intend to reinvest the profits of the next four years back into the business. “It’s the oldest brewery in town,” he says. “We just breathe life into the place.”
Regardless of the amount remaining the same, this sale represents a real change for Yapur. “It’s the end of an era for all of us,” she said. “Let’s have one last big cheer for Oktoberfest and go out with a bang.”
Johnson thinks he’s ready for retirement. “Who knows?” he thought with a hint of reluctance. “I’ll probably wake up in the middle of the night after closing the deal and wish I still owned the brewery.”
At least he can still enjoy it as a customer, right? “I get free beer for life as part of the deal,” he replied with a chuckle. He didn’t look like he was kidding.
Enjoy Oktoberfest at The Brewhouse (229 W. Montecito St.;  884-4664; sbbrewhouse.com) on October 7 and 8, or just come say goodbye to the original owners while enjoying specials all month long.
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