Can beer save downtown Fresno? KSEE24's Evan Onstot says it's about time to stop and smell the hops. Beer is about to flow through the heart of Fresno, and there is hope that it will be a catalyst for a new downtown boom.


By EVAN ONSTOT | April 27, 2017

There is a comeback under construction in downtown Fresno.

"I never thought I would open up in downtown Fresno," said Tommy Caprelian of HoP PK, "but it just seemed like a couple years ago that the undertow was starting to change."

If downtown Fresno is changing – and for the better – Caprelian wants to be on board. He and his business partner Chafic Dada are just weeks away from opening up HoP PK – Caprelian's Sanger-based House of Pendragon brewery paired with Dada's Pita Kabob restaurant with three locations in Visalia.

"The thought is, you come in for another type of food – we'll give you a different type of beer to go with it," Dada said.

"It just seemed like a couple years ago that the undertow was starting to change."

The pair won a small business competition with the Downtown Fresno Partnership giving them over a hundred-thousand in cash and prizes.

That was 2015. In 2017, HoP PK is one of four new breweries planning to open this year – tripling the amount of craft beer options downtown.

"Have you been to Portland? Have you been to the Gaslamp District in San Diego? I mean, that's what, that's what we're shooting for," said Fresno’s Assistant Planning Director Dan Zack.

Zack said breweries these days are an indicator for downtown health. If you have an active beer scene, you likely have an active downtown.

"Craft beer alone is not going to bring a downtown back from the dead, but having craft beer as part of the mix – housing, workers, public spaces that are comfortable places to be, craft beer, restaurants, shopping – all of that jumbled together in a nice environment and you're onto something," Zack said.


"If you have an active beer scene, you likely have an active downtown."

The city's marketing team has already coined the title "Downtown Ale Trail" and released a video showing each brewery on the map. Newcomers include HoP PK, Zack's Brewing, Border Hop Brewing...and 411 Broadway Ales and Spirits.

Co-owner Joseph Soleno was brewing beer before he was old enough to drink it.

"I was not, no," Soleno laughed, "the ingredients are not illegal to acquire."

Soleno earned a professional brewer certification at UC Davis before working for a popular brewery in Oregon.

He said Portland is what's known as a "Beervana."

"I believe we can become a full-on beervana," Soleno said.

Soleno and his co-owners are turning an old radiator repair shop on Broadway into their own personal beervana.



"I believe we can become a full-on beervana."

But why are all these new breweries jumping in now?

"I've had nothing but great interactions with the city," Soleno said.

Perhaps, it's Fresno's new development rules – where new breweries don't have to pay for a conditional use permit – and that's only downtown.

No conditional use permit is required downtown for a brewery, pub, or restaurant with a bar.

"And that makes it a lot faster, cheaper and easier to open a place here compared to anywhere else in the metropolitan area," Zack said.

Zack said it saves new business owners about $10,000.

"It can't just be all private guys, and it can't just be government. It's got to be a good combination of the both to make it happen."

Arthur Moye of Full Circle Brewing Co. said, "I think that's a big element of the revitalization. It can't just be all private guys, and it can't just be government. It's got to be a good combination of the both to make it happen."

Moye is the new guy in an old space.

He and a fellow accountant bought Full Circle last year. He's so committed that left his career to focus on the brewery full time.

Moye – like every brewer I talked to downtown – see the six breweries more as teammates, not competition. And he doesn't want it to stop at just beer.

"Just one little brewery out on a corner is one thing. A whole bunch of breweries and restaurants and clubs really creates that feeling that people are wanting to experience in Fresno," Moye said.

"In the beginning, sure, I'm sure we're going to share some of the same business. But I see the long-term goals. I see the uniqueness that can come out of having a brewery district downtown," said Mike Cruz of Tioga-Sequoia Brewing.

Of course, Tioga-Sequoia is a big fish in the downtown beer scene, and as other breweries are moving in, the brewery is just getting bigger.

"I didn't think it was going to happen this soon."

Cruz – the company’s president – said the brewery has a problem. It became too popular. So Tioga-Sequoia is about to revamp its entire beer garden and tap room – and more importantly, he said, it just tripled in size by buying the old Amvets building next door.

"This next phase is probably going to be a good $800,000 investment, in just equipment and renovations."

Soon, Tioga-Sequoia will have the ability to make four times the beer they do now, and that's a good thing for beer drinkers and for downtown.

"I didn't think it was going to happen this soon,” Cruz said. “We knew it was really going to be a long road ahead, but to see probably in the last two years the development and the growth and the attention that downtown has gotten, it's unbelievable."

EXTENDED

INTERVIEWS

Web Extra 01

DAN ZACK


Dan Zack, Fresno's Assistant Planning Director, on why the new downtown development code is so important for revitalization.

Web Extra 02

FULL CIRCLE


Full Circle's Arthur Moye, on why he's optimistic downtown's growing craft scene won't fizzle out. Plus, he talks about some of his brewery's favorite beers.

Web Extra 03

411 BROADWAY


411 Broadway's Joseph Soleno on why he left a popular Oregon craft brewery to open his own shop in downtown Fresno. Plus, a preview of what the space will look like when it opens with the help of co-owner Juan Martinez.

Web Extra 04

HoP PK


HoP PK's Tommy Caprelian and Chafic Dada on how they met, and what led them to downtown Fresno.

Web Extra 05

TIOGA-SEQUOIA


Tioga-Sequoia is upgrading it's facilities. Company president Mike Cruz says one new piece of equipment means you can expect to see more of their beer in cans.

California Craft Brewery Economic Impact

http://www.californiacraftbeer.com/ca-craft-beer/craft-beer-statistics/. Impact in the billions.

By The Numbers

1000000

barrels of beer are exported out of California

750

craft breweries are in operation across California

51000

jobs in the craft brewing industry in California

7

billion dollars contributed to California's economy (7.288 billion)

For more information on the Downtown Ale Trail, please visit The Downtown Ale Trail

For the Downtown Ale Trail promotional video: YouTube link

And for more information on the Downtown Fresno Partnership: www.downtownfresno.org

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