Popular Temescal gastropub The Hog’s Apothecary announced on Thursday that it will close Sunday. The business shared the news in a Facebook post: “It’s with an extremely heavy heart that we have to announce that Hog’s Apothecary will be closing as of this weekend with Sunday’s brunch service being the finale. We’ve made so many friends over the years here and to all of you that have made it possible, we want to send a huge thank you! Please stop by and say goodbye if you can over the next few days.”
The Hog’s Apothecary opened at 375 40th St. in September 2013. Co-owners John Streit and Bradford Earle (who left the business after the first six months) transformed an old laundromat into the establishment, which has become known for its elevated pork-focused pub fare and its extremely curated selection of California-made craft beers. Hog’s is a go-to for local craft beer lovers, as it offers a rotating list of about 30 beers at a time, many of which are sourced directly from the brewers themselves.
Before opening Hog’s Apothecary, Streit worked as a chef across the Bay Area, including at Pizzeria Delfina, Pizzaiolo and Rotten City Pizza. For Hog’s, his mission has been to “raise people’s expectation of food in a beer-centric restaurant while also showing people that great food can be made better with beer.” The beerhall’s menu offers a selection of dishes, many featuring house-butchered pork and local, organic produce. The restaurant makes its own sausages, fries its own Kennebec potato chips in lard and offers charcuterie and cheese plates that can be paired with beers.
Hog’s Apothecary was one of the first beer-centric establishments to open in the area of North Oakland bordering Mosswood and Temescal, which is a close walk to Temescal Brewing and Roses’ Taproom (both on Telegraph) and kitty-corner from newcomer, Bierhaus. All of the businesses are small and locally owned, a point of pride for the neighborhood, which successfully fought against a planned beer garden from an L.A. based craft beer company that was bought by Anheuser-Busch InBev. The Golden Road Brewing beer garden was to be on 40th Street, a block from Hog’s Apothecary.
But it isn’t local competition that’s closing Hog’s Apothecary. Streit told the East Bay Times the rising cost of running a business (with minimum wage and rent hikes) was the main reasons he’s calling it quits. He also said “smash-and-grab car robberies” have been a constant problem. But in a phone call with Nosh, Streit said it’s more complicated.
“To some degree, there’s a lot of different things going on in the area. I’m probably not the first, and I’m certainly not the last — lots of other restaurateurs are struggling quite a bit,” Streit said.
For Hog’s, a full-service restaurant — which not only offers table service, but has a large, varied menu, works directly with breweries and farms, makes its own charcuterie and condiments and breaks down whole animals — the cost of labor add up quickly, and when a slow patch of business hits, the impact is great. Streit realized too late, he said, that he should’ve changed Hog’s to a fast-casual model, mentioning chefs like Russell Moore who closed his lauded Oakland restaurant Camino to focus on his counter-service kebab restaurant, The Kebabery, which will soon open its second location in Berkeley.
“When you see new things opening up, they’re not full-service restaurants, or even conceptually inclusive of a broad range of offerings. Very few people are having a wide range,” he said.
About two months ago, Streit spent about $15,000 in an attempt to shift to a pared-down version of the gastropub, but several consecutive slow weeks of business meant Streit lost another $25,000 since March. After about eight “less than stellar” weeks, Streit decided he had to close.
“I didn’t want my payroll to not go through,” Streit said. “I should’ve made faster adjustments. I’m saddened.”
“People stand on this soapbox in the Bay Area. They want to know where their food comes from, whether it’s organic and say they want to support places that are doing creative things. I don’t think it’s a matter of lying, but when it comes to the pocketbook, you’re going to go to the pho place that gets prison-grade meat because you don’t want to spend $30 on dinner, you want to spend $9. People still go out four to five times a week, but four of the five nights, they’re going to the smaller, more casual places. I don’t blame them, that’s where I go.”
Although Streit originally said he’d close Hog’s Apothecary after brunch service on Sunday, he told Nosh he’s considering keeping it open through dinner. Several chef friends called him after hearing the news of the restaurant’s closing, offering to let his staff rest and help him out in the kitchen one last time.
“We’re probably going to open for dinner. I wanted to give staff time to grieve and hang out, but I think there’s going to be enough food for that final celebration. I may as well…”
Hog’s Apothecary will be open through Sunday. Final hours are 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to midnight, Friday; 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday; 10 a.m. through TBD, Sunday.This story was updated after it was published with comments from Hog’s Apothecary owner John Streit.