It was the first microbrewery in Westwood, won awards for its homemade ale and became a staple for the UCLA community.
And now, almost 20 years after it first opened on Glendon Avenue, the Westwood Brewing Company is closing its doors.
In the first few years it was open, the popular bar and restaurant – commonly known as Brew Co. – brewed its own beer in 700-gallon copper and stainless steel tanks as the first microbrewery in Westwood.
The bar, located at 1097 Glendon Avenue, will serve its last drink sometime between the end of June and August, depending on when the current owners can finish the real estate transaction and transfer their liquor licenses, said George Workman, the general manager of Westwood Brewing Company.
The Boiling Crab, a seafood chain, will move into the space, said Steve Sann, the chair of the Westwood Community Council.
Brew Co. was sold for $450,000, reduced from $595,000, according to real estate listings.
The owners of the Westwood Brewing Company and the Boiling Crab could not be reached for comment after multiple phone calls and emails.
Workman said the reason for the closure was the owner’s desire to focus on other projects. He added that the Westwood Brewing Company’s profits have been slowly dwindling over the last few years. According to the real estate listing, the establishment made about $1,500,000 from 2011 to 2012, which is about $500,000 less than its 2008 profit.
The struggling bar, a staple for many members of the Westwood and UCLA community, has undergone many changes since it first opened.
John Heidt, one of the original owners, bought the property back in the early 1990s and immediately started to develop it into a brewery.
“(The microbrewery) had an overwhelming response from the community,” Heidt said. “It was colossally successful.”
The bar started to develop its beer and its brand and gathered a steady following of loyal customers. Brew Co. started to get some outside recognition, including winning the award for best strong ale at the 2000 World Beer Cup, an international competition that recognized the top beers and ales in more than 90 categories.
The original owners designed and remodeled the historic building, which was the first building in Westwood to include a courtyard.
After the original owners sold the bar to the current owner in 2003, the bar stopped brewing its own beer and started to buy it from outside places, Heidt said. He said he believed that on-site brewing was more work than the new owner wanted to take on. The brewing systems are still there but the storage tanks were removed years ago.
“We went from one of the great real estate properties of all the time,” Heidt said. “Since we sold it there has been a series of struggles.”
And since the recession hit in 2008, profits have been on a steady decline, Workman said.
“When the stock market takes a dive the first thing parents do is cut off their kids’ spending money,” he said. “Instead of buying eight shots of Patrón we have people buying eight waters and two $8 beers.”
Gabriella Zornosa, a fourth-year anthropology student, is one of several students who visits the bar regularly. She said that she has noticed that people go to the bar more for the atmosphere than to purchase drinks.
“By the time most people get to Brew Co., they aren’t buying drinks as much,” she said. “You’re mostly just there for the karaoke.”
Steven Loughran works in construction on the West Side and has been visiting the bar for about 10 years.
He said that he has noticed that the bar has not been well maintained in the past few years.
Still, Brew Co. has become a landmark for many past and current students.
“It is really sad,” Zornosa said about the closing. “It had a great college-bar vibe. (Losing it) will make Westwood lame.”
David Chaves, who has been a bartender at Brew Co. for the last five years said he is going to miss meeting so many different people – in addition to the steady income.
“I have learned more working at a bar in a college town than I ever did in college,” he said. He said he will rely on his second job as a veterinary technician at an animal hospital once Brew Co. closes.
Workman said he plans to host a few closing events for the restaurant’s patrons, including a comedy show that will bring back previous acts.
With contributing reports from Samantha Focht, Bruin contributor.