Chula Vista's Third Avenue Village is gaining a brewery to add to the #southbayuprising craft beer movement. Thr3e Punk Ales has signed a ten-year lease on a 4000-square-foot storefront at 259 Third Avenue, in what had once been the site of the Highland department store.
Last month, the Reader reported Thr3e Punk had debuted its first official beer, brewed on the system at Butcher's Brewing in Santee. That should continue until August, the target date for the startup's ten-barrel brewhouse and tasting room to open.
"It was important for us to get to Chula Vista and set up shop," says Thr3e Punks cofounder Steve Garcia, who lives not far from the new brewery site. "It's where we are from and where we want our business to grow. We want to bring/brew craft beer in my hood for our homies."
And the hood wants them back. Alan Cassel, the South Bay resident who owns the property, says, "I really wanted to see a brewery come into that space," calling the effort "a labor of love." He notes several San Diego breweries had shown interest in the location, either as a brewhouse or satellite tasting room, but they weren't as invested in moving to South Bay. "I had a couple people in contention, but I really liked Steve and the Thr3e Punks story. Steve lives three blocks away, he's a Chula kid…he's the right guy."
The city also wanted them there. Scott Donaghe, principal planner in the city's development department, introduced Garcia to Cassel as part of efforts to bring craft beer to the area. "As a city, from the mayor and city manager on down, we have had a lot of talks about rebuilding Third Avenue in particular, and we see [craft breweries] as magnets for other kinds of business," he says, mentioning businesses such as pizza places, tea houses, and coffee shops.
Donaghe also helped the recently opened Third Avenue Alehouse taproom find its nearby Village location. A brewing hobbyist and member of San Diego's QUAFF homebrewer's club, Donaghe says he also had a personal interest in growing the beer scene: "I grew up here, I'm still here, and I'm tired of driving downtown, or to North Park and South Park to find beer. And I hear that others are too."
After a longstanding prohibition on breweries dating back to the middle of the 20th Century, he says city officials have decided to take a more flexible approach to interpreting an outmoded city plan. Rather than focus on breweries as producers of alcohol, they're now more likely to be regarded in the same way as bakeries. "They're essentially doing the same thing," he points out. One business uses yeast and grains to make beer, the other to make dough.
He also points out that Chula Vista is a very large place, with the East Lake area boasting one of the highest median incomes in the county. In other words, lots of room for craft beer to grow. "We're not done," he concludes. "We still have a long way to go."