NORTH COUNTY — The wait is over.
It’s been a couple of minutes, well four years worth of minutes actually, but Santa Maria Brewing Co. officially opened in Atascadero on Friday.
SMBC owner Byron Moles knows people have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting.
“Everyone has been like, ‘Dude, are you ever really going to open. I’m just hoping that they all haven’t given up yet,” Moles said with a smile and a laugh from inside the 27,000 square foot building on 7935 San Luis Avenue. “It’s been a long time, four years, but we haven’t lost excitement because we just knew it was going to be the turning point for us as a company.”
Moles candidly said he bit off more than he could chew four years ago when he acquired the Atascadero building. Things were going well, Santa Maria Brewing Co. was growing fast. Moles purchased Tap It Brewing in San Luis Obispo and Moles opened an SMBC taproom and restaurant in Paso Robles on Park Street with plans for Atascadero to come online not long after.
“I spread myself too thin. Fortunately, I’ve got some fantastic partners that have helped us get through the whole thing, but because this was such a big one, it was hard to funnel enough money through here to get it done any sooner than what we did,” he said. “Hindsight should have let some of the other things go, but hindsight is always easy.”
The Atascadero building used to be home to Gary Bang Harley-Davidson. The 35-year motorcycle dealer closed the location in December of 2015.
In 2013, Moles and his wife, Karen, along with brewer Dan Hilker purchased Santa Maria Brewing Co., which had produced award-winning craft beer for 15 years. They moved it into a new home, expanded barrel production, partnering with select pubs, restaurants, and retailers across the U.S, started a successful Beer of the Month Club.
They quickly outgrew the Santa Maria location and began looking to move to North County.
“My wife and I have always loved Paso Robles and Atascadero, the upper part of SLO County,” Moles said. “We outgrew the brewery in Santa Maria and were looking to open up something this way. Four years ago when this building was sitting here, I talked a friend into purchasing it for us and told him kind of what the dream was and what we wanted to do, he said yeah go for it and helped us out.”
The dream was to build a destination brewery and distillery in Atascadero that had room for expansion as production and distribution grew.
“All of the production needs that we have as a company for the next couple of years can definitely be met from here,” Moles said. “We are excited to be able to get things under one roof now and do what we wanted to do.”
The restaurant and taproom occupy 14,000 square feet and the distillery and brewhouse with bottling and canning lines occupy the remainder. They have a storage facility north of the taproom.
There is an outdoor patio with umbrellas for shade to the south of the taproom. There are plans for a large beer garden behind it.
The expansive restaurant and taproom have plenty of large televisions for sports fans when they can be inside again. The south wall of the restaurant has nine large-screen TVs arranged in a rectangle that can play different stations or be programmed as one huge screen.
“We made a decision four years ago that Atascadero was going to be our future,” Moles said. “I think this community is a sleeper. It’s just waiting to do some great things here on the Central Coast. I’m looking forward to being a part of that. To be able to do something that I think will be a draw, and I think that is what this place will become, a draw.”
Atascadero has changed over the past four years due to more high-quality restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries opening. Moles sees this as a good thing for the community.
“I think if we can keep building what is happening in Atascadero right now, we can pull some of that tourist clientele from Paso to help support these businesses. I think you need options to do that,” he said. “I think the quality of the restaurants and breweries that are opening up is nothing but phenomenal. I think that is just going to help everybody.”
SMBC’s restaurant menu is the same as the Paso Robles and Nipomo locations. It features burgers, sandwiches and salads. They are planning to add pizzas and smoked meats to the menu.
SMBC will have a full bar because of the craft distilling license.
“The craft distilling license gives us the ability to sell not only our spirits but other people’s spirits,” Moles said. “It’s a full bar that is opening Friday. Margaritas, Bloody Mary’s, you name it, we will be able to pour it.”
SMBC’s taproom has 50 taps. It will be serving roughly 20 of its craft brews when it opens Friday and will feature 35 to 40 SMBC beers when it ramps up production. Also, there is a 12-tap station devoted solely to filling growlers.
Moles said seeing that first customer buy an SMBC craft beer and drink it on the Atascadero patio will “be a cool thing.” As far as a grand opening, he said that will have to wait until COVID-19 restrictions allow for larger gatherings inside. Until then, he’s considering this an “extended soft opening.”
“When this is over, the music will kick in, and we will do it right,” Moles said.
SMBC Atascadero Brewpub and Distillery is located at 7935 San Luis Ave., Atascadero. For more information and hours of operation, visit the Facebook page www.facebook.com/SMBCAtascadero or website www.santamariabrewing.co/.