Beachwood Brewing announced this week that it will temporarily close its kitchen effective Feb. 1—a decision, co-owner Gabriel Gordon said, that came as the restaurant’s Downtown location has been hemorrhaging tens of thousands of dollars every month.
“As a business owner, it’s my job to adapt to both internal and external challenges,” Gordon said. “Unfortunately, the challenges that are going on in Downtown Long Beach—I can’t solve those.”
Specifically, Gordon pointed to homelessness, continuous construction and a lack of Downtown office workers as contributing to a drastic decline in business.
These issues are not new. In late October, Gordon wrote an email to the Downtown Long Beach Alliance that outlined a litany of issues he said had driven business down about 25%. At the time, Gordon said the situation was desperate and that the business was running out of options to stay in Downtown.
City leaders responded quickly at the time, promising more police officers, increasing Health Department outreach, expanding homeless shelter capacity and even declaring a state of emergency. While officials claim to have made good on those pledges—there are more police and health workers in the area, a winter shelter has opened, and the City Council has approved a state of emergency—Gordon said there’s little evidence that any changes have been made.
“It’s not doing s— to change the perception of what is going down there for the customer, from my standpoint and from other business owners’ standpoints,” he added. “Every day is something—it’s unrelenting.”
Representatives for the Police Department and Mayor Rex Richardson’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokesperson for the city’s Joint Information Center, which is managing the homelessness crisis in the wake of the city’s emergency declaration, said officials have deployed a Mobile Access Center to focus on the Promenade, Civic Center and Billie Jean King Main Library and that the Police Department has increased patrol in the Downtown area.
Public Works, meanwhile, is partnering with Development Services to maintain the Promenade and the nearby area with enhanced lighting, alley clean-ups and with a scheduled installation of hardscape landscaping, according to the JIC.
Gordon said he believes the city’s emergency declaration could make progress in addressing the issues in Downtown, but he noted it will likely take months or even years.
“I can’t keep losing (money) while I wait for the government,” Gordon said.
As it is, if Beachwood did not have other locations, the Downtown branch would have gone out of business in October, Gordon said.
At its peak, Beachwood had around 20 kitchen staff. When the company announced the forthcoming closure, there were eight staff members—one person who already planned to leave the company, one person who only worked two shifts per week and six full-time employees. Fortunately, the company’s Huntington Beach location had four open positions that were offered to the Downtown Long Beach workers.
“It sucks to have to lay off anybody, but we’re not talking about a significant number of people,” Gordon said. “I had a great kitchen staff, but unfortunately that’s the most expensive part of the operation, and something had to give.”
Beachwood’s Bixby Knolls location is only about two months away from receiving its license to begin distilling spirits, Gordon said, which will bring a lot more jobs to the space. The distilling equipment is set up and ready to produce once the license comes in, he said.
Gordon said the company’s outdoor taproom at 2ND & PCH, meanwhile, could open as early as this spring after it saw construction delays due to weather.
In Downtown, Gordon said the space will host pop-ups, entertainment and events while the team determines how best to move forward. He said he hopes to reopen the kitchen in the summer, noting that there would likely be an adjusted menu better suited to the demand in the current climate.
Another option, Gordon said, is to partner with a pop-up food vendor that wants to transition into a brick-and-mortar space. Splitting rent with another business would ease the stresses of operating out of such an expensive location, he said.
For now, the Downtown storefront will focus on what the company does best: brewing and serving beer.
“We have an incredible brewing team,” Gordon said. “This is the only solution that I have, that allows us time to circle the wagons and come out with a concept that will work for that location. It will allow me some breathing room, which I don’t have at the rate we’re burning through cash.”