Chapter 11 for El Cajon Brewing Company

Yesterday, I http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/feast/2012/oct/09/modern-times-beer/">reported on a brewing company I thought was doing something right, recapping an early QA session where http://www.moderntimesbeer.com">Modern Times Beer owner Jacob McKean put himself out there, allowing a group of ten beer enthusiasts to critique several of his prototype beers. Today’s post will be different.

As a food journalist with a defined focus on the local craft brewing scene, I regularly reach out to brewery owners, brewers, and associated brewing company personnel, so that I can interview them about their businesses and stay on top of what’s going on with them. Despite the fact I’ve offered critical opinions on brewing companies I think aren’t up to snuff, I never affix value—or lack thereof—to any business before they open their doors to the public.

To put it simply, everybody gets one. If you are opening a brewery, I want to know, and I want to know what you’re all about so I can tell others you’re on your way. It’s news. Every brewery deserves their shot, and every craft beer drinker deserves to know about what’s out there for them.

With more regularity than one might expect, brewery personnel do not return my emails or phone calls disclosing my role and requesting the opportunity to speak with them. Surely, these individuals have their reasons, and it has zero effect on the way I view them moving forward. For all I know, they’re extremely busy and have an inbox as packed as mine. I just do my best to interface with them as they get closer or after they get their doors open, and eventually, I get my face-time with them (or virtual face-time as the case may be).

Tenacity is required for anybody on a beat. I have that in spades and it’s always been rewarded where craft brewing is concerned…with one exception. That anomaly is http://www.elcajonbrewingco.com">El Cajon Brewing Company (110 North Magnolia Avenue). I reached out to them far before they opened up in downtown El Cajon, but didn’t receive a response. I tried back several times prior to their grand opening. No response. I tried again after they were open. More silence.

Like I said before, there’s no way I could know why they didn’t want to talk. I assumed it might have something to do with the over half-a-million dollars they were loaned by the City of El Cajon or, more likely, the fact they borrowed $345,000 initially, only to fail to open and come back to request another $300,000 to get up-and-running. That can bring on reporters who enjoy feasting on leads rife with the potential for incensing a community’s citizens. But I’m not one of them. Unfortunately, that was all I really knew about El Cajon Brewing Company for a long time.

After having their beers, I was unimpressed, but not terribly disappointed. Some were out-of-style, but none of them were dismally bad or undrinkable. They just weren’t special; average at best. I chalked up the fact I hadn’t heard back as no big loss and have proceeded to try and keep up with them via alternative methods.

The latest bit of news to flow my way is the fact the business has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, allowing them to reorganize under U.S. bankruptcy laws. The company has also interviewed brewers in the past month. Not great news for the business or the http://www.ci.el-cajon.ca.us">City of El Cajon. Far from it.

The way one runs their business is their business, but I can’t say I’m surprised to hear news like this about a company that fails to take advantage of opportunities to easily and effectively reach the exact people who will be interested in their business (i.e. - you, dear reader), especially when they have a lot of peoples’ money riding on their ability to do so.

Everybody gets one, and I’d have been happy to give them theirs. It’s a shame this turned out to be what I ended up writing about them. With any luck, their reorganization will be successful, an improved business will emerge, and I'll have some good news to report for this business down the road.


Truly is a shame when businesses, especially in the restaurant, tavern, and hospitality induustries shy away from constructive advice and input -- or even a friendly introduction.

So many operators feel they can do it all, know every facet of running a food or beverage business -- case in point here where they'd rather go out of business than accept some objective and constructive counsel or advice.

Media is not alone here. As trained restaurant operations, brand, culinary and marketing experts, it's a challenge even getting in the door to see how things are going for new and, sometimes, even more difficult, operators who, while seeing continued slips in business, feel they can solve ANY problem.

We all need good counsel, business mentors, some objective media reviews, etc. to make our businesses run better.

Small businesses...don't try to be an expert at every facet of day to day operations - reach out - in the short and long term, it's the way business icons have succeeded, operating not in a bubble but taking any and all advice they can get to be the best they can be.

Tom Kelley AccessPoint Group Mission Hills

operating not in a bubble but taking any and all advice they can get to be the best they can be.. You are a clown sir. So according to you a restaurant owner, who has had at least SOME past success, in the hardest business there is to be a success in, should accept any and all advice...does that include advice form my five time ex-felon cousins?? Or what about my 8 y/o niece???? And what makes YOU such an "expert"??? Having been in the industry myself for too many years, if you don't know how to make your business work, and need others to "fix it" then you're in the wrong business.

I blame Yelp. Businesses are so accustomed to running incessant damage control that they feel the need to lash out in self-defense or put up huge barriers right from the get-go. Everybody loses, but businesses lose biggest.

ECBC has gone through a lot of trial by fire, but don't most businesses in their first year? They do have 6 of their brews on tap, with 2 more releasing on Saturday at their anniversary. If you really wish them well, check out the event. And if your are judging your experience from months ago, I'd say give them another shot, the menu and beers have been completely revamped. http://www.elcajonbrewingco.com/event/ecbcs-1st-anniversary-celebration/

I'm a big fan of El Cajon Brewing Company and a bankruptcy attorney, though I have no connection to them or the case.

The bankruptcy filings make some vague references to initial operating losses and the loss of their brewer. The loss of the brewer makes sense based on some conversations I overheard between a guy behind the bar and some customers a while back.

I'm far from a beer expert, but it is was of my wife's favorite places for date night. I would hate to see them fold.

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