Breweries in the city of San Diego are prohibited from hosting live music events by the same license that allows them to brew beer. However, many North County breweries can, and do, and one of them has taken the privilege a step further by installing a pro-quality music venue. A month later, its impact has been huge, both for the brewery and music community.
Since opening two years ago, Oceanside brewery Midnight Jack Brewing Company has offered entertainment to lure customers, ranging from movie nights to stand-up comedy events. Live music has been set up in same way it has with other breweries in the area: with a makeshift stage and PA speakers.
Local musician Tim Sams produced a few of those “pop up shows.” Performing music for going on two decades, he currently plays in local bands Taken By Canadians and the Filthy Violets. But he and his wife aspire to open a music venue in Oceanside or Vista, so Sams established a music promotions business called Craft Sounds, and has curated events at established music venues around town, including Soda Bar and Pour House.
Sams’s predecessor in Taken By Canadians, Tristan Faulk-Webster, is tasting room manager at Vista’s Aztec Brewing Company and as Vista Brewers Guild president in 2015, he successfully lobbied the city to allow live music in breweries. Seeing what his friend had accomplished with shows at Aztec inspired Sams look at breweries as potential venues, and Craft Sounds began staging shows at area breweries.
After such an event at Midnight Jack, owners Kathy and Joh Scheri spoke to Sams about making it a regular thing. “Why don’t you take that corner and do whatever you want?” they told him. They didn’t realize how far Sams was willing to take it. “They had the same vision as I did,” he says with a laugh, “They just didn’t know the extent of the sound system I would put in.”
Sams built a stage equipped with pro lighting and sound, transforming the northeast corner of the brewhouse into a music venue dubbed the Echo Room. He books all the performances, and works the sound board, while maintaining a full time day job to support his interest in the whole thing. “It’s all my investment,” Sams says, “I’m 30 grand deep right now, and it’s growing.”
Meanwhile, Scheri reports tasting room revenue rose 56-percent in the first month since the Echo Room started booking Friday and Saturday night events. In April, they will add a Wednesday night open mic event, and Thursday comedy nights produced by local stand-up outfit, Comedy Heights. “Putting this music in has changed the trajectory of our life,” Scheri says.
Midnight Jack strictly sells beer for the events, and in a loose arrangement, Sams takes a percentage of the box office for ticketed events, and Midnight Jack offers a production fee for no-cover events.
“I’m making no money doing this. But that’s not really the goal right now,” insists Sams. “I understand the networking and trust that goes into building a business like this.”
A variety of performers have come through, but one genre has embraced the new venue the most. “There’s a huge hip-hop scene going on in North County,” Sams says, “and they don’t have any place to play.” He points to a recent show by Oceanside rapper Dezzy Hollow that pushed Midnight Jack’s to new limits.
“We had a line outside the building,” recalls Kathy Scheri, “I had to shut it off because we were at capacity.”
Most nights don’t require tickets or cover charge, but the number that do might be increasing. Whereas Midnight Jack used to reach out to bands asking them to play, now local musicians are clamoring to book shows.
“I think having that stage makes us respectable,” says John Scheri, “We have bands knocking on our door now… I send them right to Tim.”