The Wood. That Is Inglewood.
I knew that the West Side was a difficult Real Estate Market. I didn't realize the incredibly daunting task it would become. Be forewarned, this is a long detailed post regarding brewery real estate on the West Side of Los Angeles.
We had several important "must haves" that would ensure our production brewery success (in order of importance):
1. City/Planning Department and Landlord support. I cannot express the importance of City/Planning and landlord support. City and Planning will either grease it's political wheels to move a project quickly forward or put on it's brakes and make it very difficult. Having your landlord support makes outfitting your brewery much easier. City/Planning and landlord support is integral in our ability to grow.
2. Cellar space: The more space we have for tanks, the more beer we can produce and sell. Production and the sale of wholesale beer is the revenue generator of the brewery, not the tasting room sales. The tasting room is the social icing on the cake! We were in the market for 10,000+ square feet based on the size of our brew house. This amount of square footage would allow us to grow.
3. High ceilings: Tanks come in all different barrel sizes. As the size of the tanks increase, their footprint increases slightly while their height increases substantially. Ceiling height is critical. The higher the better.
4. High Docks: Truck accessible high docks allow for easier loading and unloading of supplies and beer. They also increase the safety of employees.
5. Utilities: We need access to lots of water and power to make beer.
6. Exterior silo: The ability to having an exterior silo allows us bulk malt rates and it serves as a landmark for our brewery.
7. Location: Location is important, but not as important as I thought when I started the planning Three Weavers.
Over the last five months I have searched for the perfect brewery and tasting room location all over the Westside. We have been competing with creative types looking to transform the building into urban office space.
I placed offers to lease at three locations within Playa Vista and Del Rey (the City of Los Angeles) areas despite the locations not meeting all the top six "must haves". Cellar space, ceiling height, and exterior silo would have to be sacrificed. Within the City of Los Angeles, breweries are allowed in M-2 only. M-2 zoning is very limited in the Westside of Los Angeles. In the end, landlords were not comfortable with the idea of a brewery and/or felt that we were underfunded (Underfunded you say? I'll cover that in a future post). The listing agents and landlords were not familiar enough with the craft beer industry and thus not comfortable. Also, the city of Los Angeles is not the easiest city to establish a brewery. We would be subjected to a 4 to 12 month conditional use permitting process. The process involves applying and notifying the surrounding property owners and tenants within 500 ft of our property line of our intention to sell alcohol. There is a conditional use hearing held to address any concerns of the neighbors and property owners. After that meeting, there is a period of time for appeals. If there are no objections or appeals, the city would issue the conditional use permit to sell alcohol. During the process we would be allowed to produce beer but not serve it in our tasting room until our conditional use permit is issued.
In Culver City none of the locations met the six top "must haves". Again, cellar space, high dock doors, exterior silo would be sacrificed. We placed offers to lease at three different properties. Within Culver City, a brewery is allowed in their IG Zone (General Industrial). Culver City Planning Department would not permit an exterior silo, stating that they do not allow any manufacturing equipment outside the exterior walls of the manufacturing facility. They would not consider the exterior silo as exterior grain storage. Culver City's zoning code also does not allow a "bar" in the IG Zone. Under their zoning code, our tasting room would be classified as a bar. Culver City offered the solution of adding a restaurant to our brewery, which is allowed in their IG Zone. With a restaurant, we could sell pints of beer as long as our total food sales were more that our total beer sales. We had significant push back from landlords and neighboring tenants of spaces when we added the restaurant aspect to the brewery. Bottom line, Landlords and tenants were happy to have a brewery but didn't want the traffic associated with a restaurant. If we dropped the restaurant we lost our ability to serve beer in a tasting room. All three declined our offer due to the restaurant or desire for a creative to occupy their space.
I looked at one property in Santa Monica, but the Santa Monica lease rates were not justifiable for our production brewery (over $3 a sq ft.) The location lacked the cellar space, high ceilings and there wasn't any space available for an exterior silo. On top of that, Santa Monica's Conditional Use Permit fee is in the high $20,000's.
During this whole time, my broker (Joe Clarke of Maxam Properties - best broker ever!) kept pushing one property that bordered Westchester and Inglewood. To appease him, I went and saw it. The location has an Inglewood address, but is located on the west side of the 405 freeway near LAX. It is situated between Manchester and Florence. It has 11660 square feet, 24'+ ceilings, five high loading docks and has appropriate utilities. It's also cheap, unlike Playa Vista, Del Rey, Culver City or Santa Monica ($1.65-3.00 sq ft.) Most importantly, we have the City of Inglewood, Inglewood Planning Department, and landlord support. In fact, we have received approval for our brewery and the tasting room from the Planning Department. We are not required to apply for a special use permit to sell and serve our beer. So once we have beer to sell, we can open our tasting room without any obstacles from the city. (Inglewood has greased the brewery wheels!)
With such a perfect property I checked out Inglewood's General Plan for the area. In 2006 Inglewood transformed their General Plan for the city to encourage new business and growth. In doing so they have attracted some new developments. In the area, Landlords are transitioning leases from air freight and cargo warehouses into mixed use and creative office spaces. As Culver City reaches it capacity, more creatives will be looking for reasonably priced areas to locate.
Additionally, there are two major projects in the works within Inglewood. Madison Square Garden has invested $100 million to renovate the Forum. There is also a $2 billion dollar project called the Hollywood Park Tomorrow, which is similar to Playa Vista. The Crenshaw LAX light rail proposes a metro stop at Florence/Hindry which is right around the corner from the location.
There were concerns of the stigma that the name Inglewood holds. The same could be said for Venice, Culver City and Abbott Kinney at one point in their history. Inglewood is a city in transition. I believe that when we go into this building, we will be encouraging other breweries in planning to check out Inglewood as a potential location. The more breweries in an area, the better for all of the breweries, as it would become a craft beer destination. Three Weavers embraces its Inglewood location and will become leaders that encourage and facilitate the positive change around us.
Drake’s Brewing, a successful brewery in San Leandro (right next to East Oakland) is a prime example of this overall concept. Drake’s is located in a commercial/industrial area of San Leandro, adjacent to OAK. Our Brewmaster Alexandra, who worked and brewed at Drake's, says that despite it’s less than alluring location, the brewery was able to expand into the regional brewery it is today with a very successful tasting room. The team at Drake’s directly attributes their expansion and success to the full and enthusiastic support from the city, landlords and it’s large/functional property size.
One of my favorite parts of visiting a new brewery is the adventure of its location. I have enjoyed and experienced some of my favorite beers in the hard to find industrial parks of Paso Robles, North San Diego County and Los Angeles. In fact, our brewmaster just recently won two bronze metals from The Great American Beer Festival brewing at a successful brewpub in Lancaster! The reason why these places are off the beaten path is because the perfect brewery properties are found off the beaten path. This property was the perfect property for our brewery. So I leased it.
Three Weavers Brewing Company
1031 W. Manchester Blvd. Unit A-B
Inglewood, CA 90301