In the last ten years Downtown Chula Vista has evolved into a new place to hang out and gather with friends and family. The list of new businesses has grown to include big name favorites like The Balboa, and Groundswell. However, the motor of this business strip is its small local businesses that invest their resources and time to engage with the community. The pandemic did take its toll nonetheless and two local favorites closed their doors permanently, Mangia Italiano and Fuddruckers.
Among the businesses that have weathered the crisis is Alex McDaniel of Brew Bar located at 277 Third Avenue. Native of Seattle, Alex has lived most of his life here in Chula Vista. He attended Eastlake High School and Southwestern College, this community is close to his heart. He opened his doors on the date of his birthday, November 28, in the year 2018. He began in the restaurant industry at the age of 16 and has learned all the roles from serving, to managing to training and supervising.
During the first two years the business was operating in the red, but he was patiently committed to establishing a growth pattern. “It’s like planting. I don’t plant,” he shares candidly, “but my mother does and I am a good observer. When you plant a seed you take care of it day by day and what you’re looking for is small changes. That is what I was doing. Listening to the people that worked with me, what they thought, how they felt things were going. I was never able to do a grand opening because I was focused on building the business, making all the adjustments as it was growing. If you make changes in the first three months everybody notices, after three months nobody really notices. These subtle changes are a way of maturing.” Alex said as he remembered the early stages of Brew Bar.
He is the creator of the whole concept, while he does have partners who help fund the project. They worked with Asabache Corporation, a partnership with the previous owner with whom they made a lease of operations so they could function as a DBA. Being creative with the circumstances they were able to open their doors.
According to Alex, there have been challenges for the businesses on Third Avenue, Third Avenue Village Association and the City’s Economic Development Department have not been fully supportive of their needs through the pandemic and states that the businesses need to find a way to work together. “I want to see unity. I work with Richard Parker with Art on Third, he is strong willed and we did our best to keep the energy on Third Avenue. We really do need engagement. What happened here is that when Covid began in 2020 the businesses worked together. After a year of the pandemic, in 2021, the relationships began to break and it got tougher as everyone tried to survive.” With the aftermath of Covid he notes a missing unity in a business district that is otherwise beautiful.
Brew Bar serves beer and wine, opens from 11 a.m. and stays open until late in the evening to cater to the evening foot traffic. It is designed as a lounge, a community hub so that it is comfortable for people of all ages to come and relax and enjoy some time either together or alone. “That is why I don’t have any signs that say ‘45 minute limit’. We work with beer and wine only so that I don’t have to put a ‘21+’ sign that would exclude families.” Alex also has his eye on attracting the younger crowds. “My intention is to invite high schoolers and let them know this is just as much a place for them to hang out”. Alex shares that the venue is themed as a bar because it is meant to be a comfortable space for people, where anyone can just be. Mothers who are walking their babies on the stroller, they can just stop by for a glass of wine.
“The idea behind Brew Bar is also to have events happening, supporting Third Avenue, and my business of course, as a destination. We have a schedule with live music every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; and a Vinyl Club on Saturday mornings where people get together to listen to and exchange vinyl records. The idea is that there needs to be something else happening other than just food available. That is what Brew Bar is about.” He says, as he points out that at night many places are designed only for adults with a club setting. The breweries are commonly watching sports with no other interaction other than drinking beer and watching sports. Before the pandemic there was live music all over the place, he recognizes that it is beginning to liven up with other activities. As the pandemic begins to fade crowds are beginning to feel confident in gathering again.