Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Check out our website blog at www.threeweavers.la.  The blog is under news on the left hand column. We have made some recent updates to the blog and website.  Come and check it out!

We will be posting all future blog posts and updates on our website.  Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Honey vs. Vinegar

I learned one of life's greatest lessons in college from a well loved secretary.  She was honey sweet to everyone and when she needed a favor or had a special request, people bent over backwards to get it done.

I have had many not so shining moments, spewing vinegar and leaving a wake of smelliness when things did not go as planned.  To my credit, most of my sour years were during teen years and into my twenties.  But meeting this lovely secretary truly changed my outlook on life.  And I have been striving to choose honey over vinegar ever since.

Everyday we are faced with choices between honey and vinegar.  My most recent encounter came on December 4th while gaining our lovely Inglewood Zoning Planner's signature for our ABC license.  By now, you know that I researched and triple checked our zoning prior to signing our lease for our space.  When our Planner and I reviewed our potential property, I was pretty clear on our intended use (wholesale and retail sales for on and off site consumption), and our lovely planner signed off on it.  Turns out she made a mistake.  Before she said that we did not need a Special Use Permit for our tasting room.  She then realized that we will be selling beer directly to the public and THAT requires a Special Use Permit.   The Special Use Permit takes a minimum of two-three months to complete, which includes a hearing and a 20 day appeals period.  Inglewood also has a monthly filing deadline to get your Special Use Permit in by.  As I sat there I realized that the Special Use Permit filing deadline was the very next day, December 5th.  OMG.

We are now two to three months delayed on our tasting room.  If I didn't get our Special Use Permit application in by 5PM December 5th, we would be an additional 30 days behind schedule.  Ouch.  That is a three to four months of rent mistake.  Good thing we have a delay in taking possession of our space!

Honey vs. Vinegar.  It's a split second decision that can lead you down two very different paths.  One which is smooth gliding, the other bumpy, stinky and rough.  All my years of striving for honey paid off in tens as I sat at the planning counter and automatically poured honey.  Lots and lots of honey.

Just the look on our lovely Inglewood Zoning Planner's face told a story of how sorry she was for the miscommunication.  I sincerely got the feeling that she would go to bat for us if we could get our Special Use Permit application in by 5PM the next evening.   I know that the honey used today will helps us in the future if and when we need it.

I left the planning office on an impossible mission.  We had to design our tasting room (ADA Compliant), redesign our parking lot to meet the new parking requirements (ADA Compliant), provide exterior elevations of the building which included our "architectural design element of our brewery" (aka: our silo) and sign.  I had to write up answers to address their questions on the Special Use Permit form and provide supporting documentation.   We also needed our landlord to notarize and sign a form acknowledging our desired permit requests.  Did I mentioned that all of these plans had to be to scale?  All to be done in less than 24 hours!  I'm an optimist, but I'm also a realist.

Back to the honey.  Jonathan and I love to entertain.  We usually can't wait to share the new things we have discovered.  Most of our designers, trades and professionals that we have worked with have somehow become part of our extended family.  Maybe because we treat them as such, family.

So when I made a frantic phone call to our friend and designer Jeremy Taylor at 5PM December 4th, he assured me that together we would get it done.  Tons of Three Weavers love to Jeremy!  Not only do his interior and landscape designs rock, but he has become a dear friend.   You will have to check out our Jeremy Taylor designed Tasting Room!

Between Alexandra (brew master), Jeremy and I, we were able to knock out the tasting room layout.  The new parking lot took quite a bit longer as well as our "brewery architectural design element" (aka: silo) and building elevations.  I didn't finish my portion of the application until mid day.  Jeremy actually drove our finished printed plans directly to Inglewood Planning.  I was able to pay for our permit application at 5PM.  Our lovely Inglewood Zoning Planner made herself available all day to us, helping give us direction with our permit application.

It was a stressful 24 hours, one that I hope not to repeat.   After completing our permit application, I profusely apologized to Jeremy for my frantic crazy phone calls throughout the day.  Knowing that he had a long traffic filled drive home, I gave him the snickers bar I had.  Somehow I remembered that Jeremy likes snickers bars.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

ABC, easy as 123!

The Alcohol Beverage Control employees are some of the nicest folks to work with.  I popped into the downtown office on Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving (walk-in application review is Monday - Thursday, 8AM to 10:30 only).   We reviewed our application, found a couple of things missing, and made our to do list for submitting our application.  Special Note:  Sign all your documents in front of the ABC employee.  It will save you money on notarizing signatures, unless the person who has to sign can not attend.

Here are the forms you will need:
Planned Operation (Non-Retail) ABC257-NR.
Anywhere it asks for application, list the brewery entity name.  You must have your location secured as the ABC license is tied to the location, not your brewery.

Licensed Premises Diagram (Non-Retail) ABC257-NR.
A hand drawing is fine, you just need to show all exterior walls of your license brewery, interior walls, stairs, exits, doors, general area where things are going (brew house, cellar, cold box, mill, bottling area, tasting room.)

Supplemental Diagram ABC253.
Again, a hand drawing is fine.  They want to see just your exterior walls in relation to streets.  Be sure to orientate your map N.

Application Questionnaire ABC217 (2+ pages depending on how many investors you have).
Here you have to list all of your investors, sources of funds, and how you plan to spend all that cash.  Be sure to list your SBA if you have one.  This form need to be notarized or signed in front of an ABC employee.

Application Signature Sheet ABC211-SIG.
If you do not sign the forms in front of the ABC employee, you will need to complete this form and have it notarized.  The ABC employee has me sign it in front of her anyways.  Go figure.

Depending on your entity type, you will need to complete:
Corporation ABC243 (2 pages).
Limited Liability Company Questionnaire ABC256-LLC (2 pages).
Partnership Questionnaire ABC256
Here you list all your information about your brewery and it's investors.  Please note that any investor that is a 10% or more owner must complete ABC208-A and B.  If any members list their trust as owners and they are 10% or more owners, you will need a copy of the executed trust documents.  If you have LLC's, Corps, or Partnerships as members of your entity and they are 10% or more owners, they will need to complete the entity questionnaire.  Any owners that are 10% or more owners of the LLC will have to complete ABC208-A and B.  Every entity will have to attach their operating agreement and articles of incorporation.

Individual Personal Affidavit ABC208-A and B.
This form needs to be notarized or signed in front of an ABC employee.  You will need a copy of your birth certificate or passport.

Certification Re: Chapter 15 Tied House Restrictions ABC140.
Every entity will have to complete this form.

Forms ABC 247 Statement Re: Residences and ABC251 Statement Re: Consideration Points are not required as they only apply to Retail licenses.

Dropped off our final application with a check yesterday and got a call this afternoon that our poster and fingerprinting forms are ready for pick up.  AWESOME!


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

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