San Antonio Brewing Company received unanimous approval from City Council on Thursday for a zoning change that will allow the company to transform a vacant Southtown industrial warehouse into a craft brewpub and tavern. Some citizens that spoke before the vote strongly opposed the project, while others welcomed the new business.
Now that the property at 302 E. LaChapelle is zoned for commercial use – it was previously a foam rubber supply and recycling facility and was zoned industrial – the brewpub’s co-owners Brent and Vera Deckard are on track to open up shop by the end of October.
Several area residents are concerned that the brewpub will further strain parking and traffic conditions on the narrow, dead-end street and attract nefarious activity. There are about two dozen homes on the two blocks of East LaChapelle street that surround the property as well as several warehouses. Dorćol Distilling Company and its HighWheel Beerworks are less than a block away heading towards South Flores Street as is local artist Alex Rubio’s R Space Gallery. During special events like the Second Saturday art walk, the street parking in the neighborhood fills up quickly.
“There are enough bars in the neighborhood, we don’t need another one,” said Juan Gonzalez, who lives across the street from the future brewpub. “I don’t believe that with all the traffic that this is best for the children in the area.”
Instead of speaking to the Council in person, Ramona Rivera sat at the back of Council chambers while an image slideshow and a recording of her testimony describing neighborhood conditions played. Her presentation included images of children walking dogs, large trucks attempting to turn around in the narrow street, and more. She commended Brent and Vera for “following their dreams” but asked them open the “bar” somewhere else.
“None of our neighbors knew this was happening,” Rivera said in the video.
The protestors declined to elaborate on their statements after the meeting.
Other area residents said they were happy to see plans to transform the dilapidated building into a “neighborhood amenity.”
“It’s important to make a distinction between what SA Brewing Co. is and a bar,” said A Clark, one of the company’s investors. “It’s more similar to a wine tasting room at a winery. … Bars are about high volume and low quality – craft (brewing) is low volume, high quality.”
SA Brewing Co. plans on being open from 4-11 p.m. and will serve simple food like sandwiches and appetizers before a full kitchen can be installed.
“I would be opposed to a bar in my neighborhood too, but a craft brewery is an entirely different kind of operation,” Clark said.
The Lone Star Neighborhood Association is overwhelmingly in favor of the project, said its president Susan Powers. No one spoke out against the brewery during the Zoning Commission meeting in early July when commissioners voted to recommend approval of the zoning change.
“We have enough industrial in our community as it is,” she said. “I didn’t receive any calls from anyone in the community opposing the brewery.”
Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5), whose district includes parts of Southtown, noted that the opposition to the brewery was “last minute” but asked the owner to clarify what kind of establishment she plans on bringing to the neighborhood.
There will be about 8-10 parking spots in front of the brewpub, said Vera, who lives in Southtown with her husband Brent. They’re also working with nearby property owners to see if they could lease some nearby parking lots and will be encouraging customers to walk or bike with discounts.
“There’s not going to be any live music,” she said, but there will be a small outdoor patio.
“Craft breweries don’t attract gangbangers,” she added. “(Customers) are not to get drunk or be a nuisance.”
The company plans on opening up the space for community meetings and is developing a community outreach program that may involve sponsoring local youth sporting teams.
“It’s wonderful to have people who are willing to invest in our community,” said local artist Bill FitzGibbons who owns Lone Star Studios, a nearby art gallery and studio space. “I think we should welcome diversity.”
Top image: A side door leading to the future home of San Antonio Brewing Co. at 302 E. LaChapelle on the city’s Southside. Photo by Scott Ball.