The Fort Point brewery held a pre-application meeting at the Timbuk2 bag maker’s store on Shotwell street Tuesday night, answering questions from the handful of neighbors who dropped in to hear their pitch about moving in with the bag maker.
The pub would be a full-service restaurant serving beer, and would be open for lunch and to all ages, said Dan Cowells, general manager of the tap room.
A few neighbors seemed excited about the idea of a new restaurant opening. Anti-gentrification activists, however, had some objections.
The brewery was founded in San Francisco and has its manufacturing in the Presidio and a tap room at the Ferry Building. Timbuk2, a custom bag designer and factory founded in the Mission in 1989, approached the brewery when it began considering better uses of its large warehouse space on 20th and Shotwell streets.
In the new setup, the brewpub would occupy the corner of 20th and Shotwell streets, and Timbuk2 would move its retail space to a portion of the building that is currently used as storage on Folsom Street. Both businesses would share a 20th Street entrance, and arrange their spaces so the manufacturing of beer and bags is visible.
The arrangement would help Timbuk2 with its rent on the warehouse, making it affordable to keep both production and retail there.
“We want someone that will celebrate manufacturing, not just rent it to the highest bidder,” said Tony Meneghetti, COO of Timbuk2.
Still, a few there objected to the sale of alcohol.
“All the alcohol – it’s turning [the Mission] into a party zone,” said Rick Hall, an activist with a coalition of neighborhood organizations called United to Save the Mission.
Fort Point employs some 70 people and has a manufacturing job training program, and would be looking to hire locally if the pub is realized, said cofounder Justin Catalana.
Peter Papadopoulos, an activist with the Cultural Action Network and one of the activists opposing new market-rate housing, retail to restaurant conversions, and new bars in the area, said he was concerned about a new brewpub making it harder for other businesses to hold on.
“We’ve had a huge upsurge of alcohol,” he said. “It’s not what families struggling to hold on need right now.”
He and other activists say that once space is converted from retail to a restaurant, it is rarely if ever converted back. When the concentration of restaurants and bars in retail spaces becomes too high, they argue, commercial spaces become ever more expensive and the neighborhood becomes a destination for outsiders to drink in but does not offer more mundane necessities, like laundromats and hardware stores, to its residents.
“When the people around you can’t hold on, whoever doesn’t do alcohol can’t hold on” said Papadopoulos.
Catalana, one of Fort Point’s cofounders, said the plan is not for an upscale locale, but rather a neighborhood spot with $6 sausage plates.
“The issue is, with just manufacturing we probably couldn’t afford to stay here,” said Catalana. “Being able to sell that beer pays for the manufacturing.”
Fort Point staff, which outnumbered residents at the meeting, took notes and asked questions about how they might make their proposal more agreeable to the activists.
“What would be needed to bring people who live here in the neighborhood to come here?” asked Colleen Fredericks, head of partnerships and community engagement at Fort Point.
One neighbor suggested the brewery follow the lead of another business coming in to the Mission and spend some daytime hours talking with neighbors who passed by to pitch their idea. Though he said he would be against any kind of alcohol, Hall suggested that if that couldn’t be avoided, the pub should try to blend in.
“If you were to create a space here, one of the things you could do is make the space non-gentrifying in appearance,” he said. “Walk around to some old places that exist, make the interior and atmosphere look like that.”
Fort Point will begin submitting plans to the city tomorrow, and a public hearing at the Planning Commission will follow. Staff expected it would take at least a year to make the brewpub a reality.