Last September, Los Angeles-based Golden Road Brewing had hopes it could overcome strong opposition to its proposed outdoor beer garden in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood. More than a year later, the brewery has conceded that it is no longer moving forward with the embattled project.
Nosh received confirmation via email from Golden Road general manager Mark Kamarauskas who wrote, “After a lot of consideration we have decided not to proceed with our current plans to build a beer garden in Oakland. We’ll be shifting our focus to other projects. We’d like to thank the city of Oakland and the Temescal Neighborhood Council for their support and partnership to date.”
The controversial project had faced opposition since design plans were first made public last March. The original plan called for the installation of seven single-story shipping containers that would surround two bars, several tables and gas fire pits. It would also contain a nanobrewery to make beer on the premises. The open-air brewpub would have been located in an empty 8,600 square foot parking lot behind Clove & Hoof at 320, 322 and 330 40th St. But backlash came immediately against the development.
There were concerns about parking, trash and noise that the brewpub would generate, but the loudest and strongest opposition came from neighbors and members of the local beer community who were worried that Golden Road, which has been owned by beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev since 2015, would be unfair competition for the independently owned breweries, restaurants and bars in the area. In 2015, after a merger with London-based beer conglomerate SABMiller, AB InBev became the world’s largest beer company, and since 2008, has been buying up once independent craft breweries like Golden Road, to add to its roster of about 500 beer brands, making it America’s largest seller of packaged craft-style beers.
Sam Gilbert, the owner of Temescal Brewing on Telegraph Avenue, told Nosh last September that he saw the project as “part of a larger, deliberate attack on local, independent beer by a multinational beer conglomerate that does not share the values of us or our customers.” Hog’s Apothecary, a restaurant and taproom located just a block from the proposed beer garden, has also been vocal in its criticism against Golden Road.
In addition, concerned Temescal and North Oakland residents organized against the project. Diana Stasko, who has lived in Temescal since 1999, and currently resides in an apartment building on 40th Street, formed a community group called Temescal Friends shortly after she first noticed a sign for the development project last spring.
“I walk by that parking lot almost everyday and I saw the sign and thought, ‘Wait a minute, I’m sorry, I think the community needs to say something about this,’” Stasko told Nosh. “We quickly organized, made petitions, made flyers and got a ton of response. More than 300 people signed the petition.”
Stasko also created a Temescal Friends Facebook page and kept neighbors updated on the beer garden via Nextdoor, where she posted news links and tips she heard directly from city officials and local beer community members. In the meantime, she also kept tabs on the Golden Road taproom, which opened in May in midtown Sacramento, and has received so many noise complaints from its residential neighbors that it had to amend its hours.
“In [Sacramento], they didn’t notice or didn’t think they could comment about what’s going on, but it’s affected the real estate market,” said Stasko. “We have direct evidence in other locations it’s not working out so well… This neighborhood is hot. [Temescal] used to be a neighborhood to get from point A to point B, but now rents are double where they are, and if there’s any little piece of property, people are fighting over it to make something out of it. But the community can have some say if the community organizes and voices its point of view; they can have impact.”
After two rounds of public comment, Golden Road reacted by scaling back the Temescal project, proposing a drastically down-sized footprint (paring down the original conception by almost 4,000 square feet), reduced hours of operation and retention of three on-site parking spaces, to reduce the future staff’s impact on already sparse public parking. In April, Kamarauskus told the San Francisco Chronicle that despite rumors to the contrary, plans were moving forward.
But recently, Stasko noticed some changes were happening at the parking lot. The parking stalls had fresh paint and a coded gate had been installed, but there was still no evidence that a beer garden was being built. She emailed Oakland city planner, Rebecca Lind and Kamarauskus for updates.
On Tuesday, Stasko received a personal response from Kamarauskas via email, who let her know the brewery was moving on.
“We’re very happy that this project as canned, so to speak,” said Stasko. “It really indicates the power that people have to determine the type of businesses they want in their neighborhood.”
For now, the parking lot will remain a parking lot. In the meantime, another beer garden will soon open on 40th Street, albeit an independently owned operation relocating from Mountain View. Bierhaus is a gastropub that specializes in German beers, burgers and pretzels. If all goes as planned, Bierhaus will open in Temescal at 360 40th St. (at Manila) at the end of this month.
When we asked Stasko how she feels about Bierhaus, she admitted, “OK, full disclosure. I’m not a beer drinker… I would love to see a farmers market, a weekend artist market, something that will add to the community that isn’t more of same. I don’t know that we need two beerhouses within a block of each other, but it’s better than an open-air corporate beer garden that doesn’t care about the impact they have on the neighbors.”