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Stone Moving Ahead With Expansion Plans

Stone Brewing Co., already among the nation’s largest craft beer makers, is now looking east for its next expansions.

Specifically, the Escondido-based brewer has two new service and retail-oriented venues set to open soon in San Diego’s East Village and inside Petco Park. It is also fielding site proposals for a nearly $30 million brewing

facility that it plans to establish somewhere in the eastern United States.

Officials said the brewer has received “quite a few proposals” from developers and property owners east of the Mississippi River, after Stone posted a request for proposals on its website. It also sent its facility requirements to business and civic leaders in several undisclosed cities where it would consider setting up a brewery in an existing building.

The eastern facility would complement current brewing operations in San Diego County, with production levels eventually expected to be on par with those now seen at the flagship facility in Escondido. No official timetable has been announced for the eastern opening.

“The idea is to make it more efficient, from a time and production perspective, to get our products to our customers in the eastern half of the country,” Stone Brewing spokeswoman Sabrina LoPiccolo said.

Stone Brewing is the nation’s 10th-largest craft beer brewer by volume, producing 213,000 barrels and $135 million in sales during 2013. It is the largest craft brewer based in Southern California.

Officials said the privately held company, established in 1996, employs 788 workers in San Diego County, with sites in Escondido, Oceanside and San Diego.

The next local opening is scheduled for March 25, when the brewer plans to debut Stone Brewing Tap Room, at 795 J St. The 2,000-square-foot venue, on the ground floor of an existing East Village condominium building, will have 16 taps and serve food including flatbreads, salads and desserts.

There will also be a retail store selling Stone-branded items such as T-shirts, caps and glassware, as well as pint bottles and growlers for takeout.

Beer at the Ballpark

On March 30, coinciding with opening day for the San Diego Padres, Stone plans to open a 4,000-square-foot patio venue on the fifth floor of Petco Park. The venue overlooks home plate and gives visitors a panoramic view of the surrounding downtown scenery, including the Coronado bridge, said Steve Robbins, Stone Brewing’s director of hospitality.

The ballpark venue will have 12 taps and a food menu that had not been finalized at press time, though Robbins said it could include some items served at the company’s full-service brewery restaurants.

Stone Brewing will be joining the ballpark’s concession lineup along with a local craft beer rival, San Diego-based Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits, which will also be operating a venue during games this year.

The East Village and ballpark openings follow Stone’s late 2013 debut of its Stone Company Store venue on Kettner Boulevard, in the western portion of downtown near Little Italy and the Santa Fe train depot. That format also has beer taps and retail sales, but does not sell food.

The company is looking to serve a growing base of new residents and workers making their way to East Village. The neighborhood recently saw the opening of the city’s new downtown Central Library, and there are hundreds of new apartments under construction.

In addition, Bumble Bee Foods LLC is in the process of moving its headquarters to an East Village building near the ballpark, and Sempra Energy plans to move its headquarters to the neighborhood next year.

“We felt it was important to be part of what’s happening right now in that East Village area, and we think it’s going to be very well-received,” Robbins said of the J Street tap room.

The two new sites will employ a total of about 55. With their opening, Stone’s beer and related items will be sold at eight branded venues in San Diego County and one in Pasadena.

Those include the two main brewery-restaurants, four Stone Company Store locations and a San Diego International Airport venue, the latter of which is operated under contract with an airport concessions company. The company also operates a 19-acre farm in Escondido, where it produces ingredients for its beers and restaurant items.

$30 Million Investment Planned

The plan for an eastern U.S. brewing facility is geared toward streamlining national distribution of its year-round and special-release beers, now numbering more than a dozen.

According to its request for proposals, the company is seeking an existing building to house brewing, packing and distribution operations. It requires a facility with at least 130,000 square feet, expandable to a maximum of 220,000 square feet.

The winning site would also house a full brewery-restaurant with retail operations, similar to Stone’s two existing full-scale brewery-eatery locations in Escondido and Liberty Station in Point Loma. Those locations are called Stone World Bistro & Gardens, with indoor and outdoor dining.

The eastern facility would initially employ 103, eventually reaching 374 at full ramp-up of operations. Stone Brewing expects to make an initial capital investment of $29 million in the new operations, rising to $31 million at full ramp-up.

Stone previously announced plans for a headquarters expansion, which would include a new 40- to 50-room hotel, at its flagship Escondido location. That project remains in early planning stages.

Stone Brewing Co.

CEO: Greg Koch

Revenue: $135 million in 2013

No. of local employees: 788

Headquarters: Escondido

Year founded: 1996

Company description: Craft beer brewer that also operates restaurant and retail venues


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