Buyers, partners, tenants sought for Stonehouse building
February 25, 2013
The future of one of Nevada City's most prominent buildings is up in the air as its owner and operator looks at options.
The owner of old Stonehouse Brewery, located at the corner of Sacramento and Broad streets, is soliciting potential buyers, partners and tenants to help keep the historic building afloat.
"I'm looking for a good tenet, a joint venture or somebody that has the means to purchase it," said building owner Nikko Wu, in a January interview with The Union. "I'm open to all those three options."
While the building is not officially on any real estate listings, Wu has been in discussions with a Nevada City Realtor, as well as some breweries.
"I think it is ripe for being a brewery again," Wu said.
Wu has reportedly been in talks with San Diego's Stone Brewery, Nevada City's ol' Republic Brewery, a Napa brewery and Sierra Nevada Brewery about coming to the Stonehouse, Wu said.
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"It's a remarkable building. It does have some potential," said Jim Harte, owner of ol' Republic in Nevada City's Seven Hills business district, below the backside of SPD Market.
"There are some attractive things about that building. We're just not convinced it is the direction we need to go," Harte said.
Wu first purchased the 10,000-square-foot and three-story building in 2003. It's first incarnation was in 1852, one of the first breweries west of the Mississippi.
The building was burned and was rebuilt in the 1857 by Chinese laborers directed by Italian stonemasons. It also briefly housed a microbrewery operation in the late 1990s.
Today the Stonehouse operates as a local bar and event center, featuring downstairs and upstairs dining and banquet rooms, a large outdoor stone patio and a private outdoor deck for dining or cocktails, according to its website.
However, the Stonehouse recently lost its most prominent tenant.
For the last two years, Sierra Commons leased space at the Stonehouse, growing its communal business space and support program until it vacated the facility in December 2012.
Sierra Commons now runs its operation out of a facility in Nevada City's Seven Hills business district.
But Wu has been in this situation before. In September 2008, the future looked grim when the Stonehouse Restaurant closed at the building, leaving Wu looking for a new tenant.
Wu has had no shortage of ideas and tactics to keep breathing life into the 160-year-old building. It also houses everything from private offices and small business to weekend events. The range of activities under the Stonehouse's roof includes dance classes, a seed exchange program, yoga, musical acts, theme parties and private events.
Coming up Feb. 17, Wu will again bring a massive Chinese New Year celebration to the streets of Nevada City, harkening back to the town's historic Gold Rush past and its Chinese miners.
Wu brags that the event draws in thousands of guests to town.
However, some of the Stonehouse's events have attracted less-than-favorable attention.
"It's been a constant struggle for them to address neighborhood concerns with noise and loitering outside," said Nevada City Police Chief Jim Wickham.
The Stonehouse's evening festivities on weekends have included burlesque and zombie parties, bringing hordes of young revelers to the building, which abuts residences.
Wu has also been cited for planning and zoning violations, Wickham said, some of which stem from the Stonehouse's liquor license, known as a 51/48 license. It dictates that 51 percent of its revenue has to be come from food sales and only 48 percent can come from alcohol.
"At some point, someone has conform to the requirements," Wickham said, noting that various agencies are using "progressive mediation" to ensure compliance.
Another challenge Wu faces is the "other side" stigma about being on the opposite side of Highway 49 from the rest of downtown Nevada City.
Lefty's bar and grill recently jumped the freeway, moving downhill along Broad Street to the former site of Amigos & Company.
Lefty's has had initial success on the other side of Highway 49, continuing to smash its previous nightly sales records from when it was located further up Broad Street.
Neither Wu nor Harte nor Sierra Commons Executive Director Robert Trent would disclose specific purchase or lease amounts.
"I would like to find a really good operator for the Stonehouse," Wu said.
To contact Staff Writer Chistopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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