Anxious beer aficionados don’t have to wait any longer for Rohnert Park’s very first brew pub to open. With new microbreweries sprouting up all around Sonoma County, Rohnert Park had yet to call one its own. However, the time for Bear Republic Brewing Company to open its Rohnert Park location – its third location in Sonoma County – has finally arrived, with its official grand opening happening on September 14.
The brewpub and restaurant had a soft opening on August 21, purposely on a Monday to slowly ease into business. However, word quickly spread and by Wednesday of that week the wait for a table was an hour and forty minutes with 171 people on the waiting list. Clearly, Rohnert Park and the surrounding area has been eagerly anticipating Bear Republic’s opening.
“Rohnert Park was an open spot on the ‘beer map’,” says Richard R. Norgrove, President and CEO of Bear Republic Brewing Company. “There was no brewery in Rohnert Park and the location is far enough from our Healdsburg facility to not compete. This is the fourth location we looked at in Rohnert Park and it’s perfect for a brewpub.”
The brewery completely redesigned and reconstructed the former Latitude Restaurant site at 5000 Roberts Road over the past two years to make it look and feel like a welcoming brewpub. The site had been vacant for about six years and so the building was gutted, the outside area was expanded and improved to include a children’s play area and an adult game area and three bars were added.
“The city was very helpful and we’ve had no delays in getting permits throughout the construction process,” says Norgrove.
The restaurant seats 300 people for dining and wait times are alleviated with the beer garden outside, where patrons can order directly from one of the bars. Different types of music play independently of each other in the various outdoor seating zones depending on the mood and time of day. With bright turquoise umbrellas, seating benches built around the large palm trees overlooking Roberts Lake and the opportunity to pick up a game of Cornhole, Jenga or Connect 4 with family and friends, patrons won’t mind the wait.
During the renovation, Bear Republic strived to not waste anything that could be repurposed and used old materials to create a unique and creative décor.
“We tried to repurpose every conceivable thing that we could in the renovation,” says Norgrove. “When we put on the solar panels, we used tiles from the roof to build walls on the outside patio area. Rather than taking up landfill, we repurposed what we could.”
The brewpub used an old shipping container for one of the bars with an old fire sprinkler pipe used to flow into the beer taps. Corrugated material from local junkyards and old lumber from Mare Island were used in construction and old kegs, repurposed into lamps, create a fitting focal point on the ceiling. The seven flags adorning the ceiling are all flags that were once flown in California – a symbolic gesture to correspond with their namesake, California’s 1846 Bear Flag Revolt.
“There is a story behind everything we have here,” says Norgrove. “We also did everything we could to keep the money we spent locally, using local contractors and suppliers.”
Bear Republic, which opened their original brewery in Healdsburg in 1996, is still owned independently by Richard Norgrove and his wife Sandy, son Richard G. Norgrove who did most of the design of the reconstruction and his wife Tami. The company expanded with a Cloverdale production brewery in 2006. That same year Bear Republic was named Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival. With the recent hiring of 120 people for the new Rohnert Park location, the company now employs over 300 people, with some employees having been with the company for 18 years.
The Rohnert Park location will feature many of the food favorites from Bear Republic’s Healdsburg location, as well as some new offerings such as brick oven pizza, with the dough and most ingredients made in house. Locally produced artisan cheeses and charcuterie plates are also on the menu.
Still under construction at the Rohnert Park location is a Tiki bar and event area with an island theme that can be configured in various ways for large parties and private events and corporate events with a separate room with AV equipment. The Tiki bar and event area is scheduled to be completed within a month.