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That’s What SHE Said: One Billion Dollars

The rumors, events, people, and stories keeping the Mesa interesting
The Swieners years

By Amanda Caniglia

Food for thought…

Ballast Point brought a whole new meaning to the term “the morning after” when they announced their decision to sell. Timing is everything and my, did our friends plan their exit stage right beautifully—they posted in the wee hours Monday morning just after SD Beer Week. Announcing on Facebook their decision not to “zig” toward the expected IPO. but rather to “zag” and “join the team at Constellation Brands” has re-ignited the debate among the craft beer community. The major concern among the fans is that the quality will go down the tubes. More importantly, the concern among the industry is that these recent breweries that are “selling out” are leaving their former craft brew colleagues to have to operate on neither a fair nor level playing field. The craft beer industry’s ability to form a coalition and work together for the greater good of their community has served as a beacon and it is something we San Diegans are proud of. These big buy-outs seem to go against the very thing our industry was rallying against.

While many are upset about Ballast Point’s decision to sell, it begs the question, “why?” What motivated them? Andy Altman of GigTown jokes: “A billion dollars.” Good point. I think what people don’t realize is that the masses jumped on the craft beer band wagon (self included) a mere 5 years ago, but these bigger brewers have been at it for almost two decades. Ballast Point started brewing in 1996. Twenty years as a small business owner… surviving the long hours, pressure, never ending responsibilities and let’s not forget early years with zero guarantee pay is deserving of a killer exit. And founder Jack White was very successful at growing the brand and operations to merit this payoff. Although his decision to go with Constellation rather than an IPO may not be respected by others, what we must respect is his and his partners earned right to be rewarded for all their years of hard work. So what is the best exit strategy for future San Diego craft breweries? Would we all feel better if Ballast Point had stuck to their guns and went with the IPO? Was the IPO even real or just a ploy to draw out a buyer? I have heard snarky comments all week from customers urging us to take Sculpin and Calico off our beer menu. We’ve always been about supporting our friends in the industry who helped us grow. It will be interesting to continue the debate at tonight’s happy hour. In the meantime, my friend Brandon Sieminski, founder of Iron Fist, said it best: “There are more than enough companies still competing on a level playing field, making damn good beer, that I can vote for with my dollar.”

We loved growing with the craft beer scene during the good old Swieners years. Luckily my husband saw the writing on the wall with food trucks at local tasting rooms. We heard of Ballast’s plans to open their own brewpub. Any good business owner would have recognized that food trucks were killin’ it at the tasting rooms and wanted that slice of the pie for themselves. Green Flash now has their own in-house food truck by the beer garden. What was hard for us to swallow was that small business owners like ourselves had built a following and depended on this symbiotic relationship to make a living. Scheduling and dealing with um-teen number of food truck owners must have been a nightmare. And I am confident there are several other reasons besides money that made more sense for the larger breweries to make that move. We had to make our own moves to adapt to the ever changing business world and had hopes of a brick-and-mortar Swieners beer garden. We had actually approached Jack White about the opportunity to run his kitchen down in Little Italy. White had already shook hands with another. But like the old saying goes… when one door closes, another one opens. Bella Vista came at the perfect time and we found it because of Swieners. We saw the opening and we jumped. We are here to build community and that takes long-term commitment and we have no plans to leave. But I have to say… only three years into a seven-day a week brick-and-mortar business, we are exhausted. So for the record, if I am still here pouring you a nice glass of Brunello in 2033, don’t even think of giving me shit for exiting stage left with my billion-dollar check. Just make sure that I always fought for the little guys.

Come sit by me…

“A billion dollars” jokes GigTown’s Andy Altman Tuesday morning at the Bella V. If you read my first section you’ll know we were yappin’ about the sale of a local craft brewery. So we got to talkin’ about his own creation GigTown. Don’t know about GigTown? Well, you should! Andy has taken his passion for music and launched an amazing online app that helps local artists book gigs around town. As a venue, GigTown has been awesome in helping us connect with local talent while driving business to our fine establishment. It’s been a hoot hosting such talented local musicians and their fans. As Andy and his team put it, it’s a win-win-win for musicians, fans, and venues.

So I asked him what has been working and what changes his team has made along the way with this new start-up. GigTown realized that its artists would sign up, but that was it. They didn’t really use the tool to push their performances. We are all familiar with the classic example of the artist that does not know how to sell himself. That’s what agents are for. But GigTown has found a way to take out that middleman by connecting the musicians, fans, and venues directly. And they have found a way for the musician to take a more active role in building their fan base. Here’s what they came up with. For every check-in during their performance, GigTown tips the artist $5 bucks. The record to date is 23 check-ins, which translates to $115 bucks. This is a super sweet incentive for the artists. Who doesn’t like a little instant ROI? Me thinks they have come up with the master plan. This promo goes till the end of the month and there were hints that another rad promo is teed up for next month to keep the artists vested. I can’t wait till Andy’s next visit. Wonder what other cool tricks he’s got up his orange sleeves.

Upcoming Events (I’ll be at the fun table…)

Free Third Thursday

Pretty quiet on the home front in terms of science, engineering, and business talks. But the glass is always half full so let’s focus on all the great art events going on along the Mesa and in downtown LJ. On Thursday, November 19, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego hooks it up with their “Free Third Thursdays.” FREE admission, and free themed Galley Guide-led tours. What a deal!

November 19, 5-7 p.m., Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Northern Lights Anniversary Series: 3 x 3 with Victoria Martino

The Athenaeum in La Jolla will feature Carl Nielson and Jean Sibelius in their Northern Lights Anniversary Series Friday. Brilliant musical and theatrical performances are such works of beauty they bring me to tears. These two are both violinists and expert composers who are sure to strike a chord. My advice, bring tissues.

Friday, November 20, 7:30 p.m., Athenaeum La Jolla 


A show titled Indecent… I’m definitely intrigued. Head on over to the Mesa’s pride and joy, the La Jolla Playhouse, for their latest triumph. This work is a World Premier play inspired by the 1922 Broadway debut God of Vengeance. I made it for last night’s opening. What? You think I’m going to miss a show called Indecent? The performance was stunning and the final scene leaves the most beautiful impression. It is an absolute beautiful love story. There are special matinee performances during the holiday week. Be sure to indulge in this masterpiece.

Thursday-Saturday, Tuesday-Wednesday, La Jolla Playhouse



That’s What SHE Said: One Billion Dollars

The Swieners years

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