Anthony LaVia removed items one at a time from the half-disassembled brewpub. To his left was a candy vending machine. Nearby, a dismantled blue painting of a Latina woman leaned against the wall, all relics of the now-closed Lupulandia.
Lupulandia Brewery, the Tijuana-themed brewpub at 2243 Mission St. near 18th Street, closed after three years, said co-owner Anthony LaVia, who also owns Beauty Bar a few blocks up. Though a youngblood compared to other Mission businesses, the pub’s aesthetics, music nights and art quickly made a buzz in the Mission’s nightlife scene. Ultimately, however, that was no match for the pandemic.
“That’s the most frustrating aspect,” LaVia said, dressed in a red “Not Today, Satan” tee-shirt. “It’s cognitive dissonance. It’s been a raging success, and a total loss, right?”
In 2019, LaVia and his partners completely renovated the 7,000-square-foot space that once housed New Starlight Furniture, and added two full bars and a full kitchen. They installed colorful tiling, large potted plants, colorful Latinx and political paintings and arcade games, and applied for city permits to open the roof.
Lupulandia’s outdoor patio quickly became “a goldmine,” said LaVia. By its third month, Lupulandia was close to breaking even. Then less than 100 days in: Helloooo, pandemic.
The first time Lupulandia closed, in 2020, it shut down for four or five months. “That was brutal. Really frustrating,” LaVia said.
The brewpub received roughly $200,000 in two rounds of Paycheck Protection Payment Loans, and another $100,000 in Restaurant Revitalization Fund loans that went toward payroll and rent, LaVia said. The landlord, Graeme N. Cohen, gave LaVia a deal on an already low rent, but the pub’s massive size still cost a lot.
Business picked up in the summer of 2021 and late fall; a decent crowd appeared at the San Francisco Giants playoff game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, which was the same day a local art gallery showed its drawings there. Then, in December, the omicron variant struck, along with “horrible, freezing weather.”
Later that winter, LaVia began receiving requests to rent out the pub again and to collaborate on food trucks. But LaVia had been watching Mission Street, and was not reassured by the still-low foot traffic.
His outdoor patio was no longer a novelty as restaurants got their own parklets; Lupulandia’s parklet didn’t help much as Mission Street “became a ghost town” and was often littered in trash.
And, in a Mission tale as old as time, Valencia Street bounced back and delivered extra competition. “I mean, we tried all the things you try to do. But the reality was, [people] go one block over to Valencia, and it’s Mardi Gras in the streets. Why would anyone want to come hang out?”
“You can literally stand on the sidewalk, and just see streams of pedestrians walking to Valencia,” LaVia said.
In January, 2022, Lupulandia temporarily closed, but after crunching the numbers, LaVia realized the brewpub would last maybe another month or two. He decided to quietly pull the plug officially by month’s end. The San Francisco Business Times first reported the space’s listing.
Owner Cohen is looking for someone to take over the remaining assets and the lease with a new business idea. The assets and lease, which expires in 2029, will go for $395,000.
This may not be the last of Lupulandia, though. LaVia said it may only be a break of a year or two before he tries the concept again, in San Francisco or the East Bay. Meanwhile, he continues to work with Lupulandia’s sister restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, with his partners. Beauty Bar, he said, is in safe hands with the manager.
“I need a year or two just to decompress, travel, and get my head straight,” LaVia said. “We had so much success, I know it works. In all likelihood, it will sort of run again.”