San Jacinto City Council approves incentive loan to new bistro and brewery

The San Jacinto City Council approved an Economic Incentive Loan Agreement for $250,000 Tuesday, Dec. 5, to be awarded to the owners of the Mason Jar Ranch Bistro and Brew Pub. The owners, Grace Santiago and Robert Carter, intend to open a craft brewery, restaurant and country store in a vacant Esplanade Center storefront.

San Jacinto City Manager Robert Johnson presented the requested loan agreement to the council during an update on the progress of the city’s Business Incentive Resolution establishing an Economic Business Incentive Policy and Program, which was approved April 18 by the city council.

The council set aside $850,000 from the city’s general fund to support the resolution in efforts to “to improve the overall San Jacinto economy, make available amenities the residents need, want and may have requested, provide jobs and generate long term revenues to support city essential services and other public services.”

The brewery owners gave their letter of intent to open the business in the vacant 5,600- square-foot, former sports bar and restaurant in the center at Esplanade and Sanderson avenues, providing the city would help with the incentive loan. The council, after discussing what the new business might bring in sales tax revenue and employment, voted 5-0 for the loan approval.

“It’s a cherry pick of the valley for location,” Mayor Pro Tem Russ Utz said. “It’s great for a brewery. I am so stoked for this project.”

The loan will be secured by fixtures and equipment, and the loan will be forgiven 10 percent annually over a 10-year life span of the lease agreement with the funding only provided after all entitlements are obtained.

Santiago and Carter appearing at the council meeting said, “We are incredibly excited to start our new venture in San Jacinto.”

They said the business will be operated with “country values” and would be using locally grown produce from area farms.

“We use local agricultural products and always support our local communities where we work and where we play,” Carter said.

Johnson, who was the former city manager in Menifee, said the couple now owns the Mason Jar Brewery in Menifee, which has met with outstanding success with a quickly growing customer base including many families with children. The Menifee Mason Jar Brewery owners said the business that offers 25 home-brewed beer varieties has grown to the point where the space they have leased is not enough to accommodate the crowds in Menifee and surrounding cities.

“We have been looking for this,” Councilman Scott Miller said. “It is very unique and creative. We have been looking for something like this. It is a breath of fresh air.”

Johnson introduced them to the Esplanade Center vacancies and the city’s Economic Incentive Loan Program. The couple was quickly interested in the space available for lease at the Esplanade Center and began negotiations contingent upon the loan agreement with the city and signed a letter of intent.

In council comments before approving the loan, Councilman Alonso Ledezma questioned the operation of another liquor sales business in the city.

“First marijuana, now beer?” Ledezma said. He said he meant no disrespect for the Mason Jar Bistro owners.

Ledezma in previous public meetings had expressed his strong objection to the new marijuana cultivation business coming to the city and new beer and liquor outlets. He later agreed to the loan application and voted his approval with the assurance the new bistro and brewery would strictly control their patrons’ overconsumption of beer.

Mayor Crystal Ruiz spoke from her position as a former restaurant owner and said, “I am really excited about this sit-down family style restaurant coming to the city. It won’t only be a restaurant but a destination.”

Bistro owners Santiago and Carter thanked the council for their encouragement and promised they would put the community first in their efforts.

Councilman Andrew Kotyuk said, “We are happy to have you. It is the cutting piece of industry today.”

With the council’s initial approval of the economic incentive loan obtained, it will come before the city council at their next meeting, Dec. 19, for a public hearing and final approval.

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