The new restaurant will be located at 6256 Highway 9 in the Cremer Building — one of the oldest and most historic structures in town — which is undergoing an extensive interior remodel and structural strengthening ahead of the scheduled Fall 2014 grand opening.
The restaurant is a partnership between Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing owner Emily Thomas and local businessman Bob Locatelli, who owns the adjacent New Leaf Community Market and purchased the Cremer building nearly 10 years ago.
The alehouse's menu will highlight locally made, organic food, wines, and beers — something that Thomas and Locatelli described as “a marriage of the ethics” of Thomas' brewery and Locatelli's markets.
Thomas, who already owns Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Tap Room and Beer Garden in Santa Cruz, said that there will be featured 25 beers on tap, 10 types of locally produced wines, and organic, locally raised, farm-to-table fare — all set in an old-fashioned, “saloon-like” atmosphere.
The alehouse will take nearly the entire downstairs portion of the building, Locatelli said, and will dressed up with images and artifacts of Felton's history.
“We're trying to recreate the feel of what it might have been like to be here a long time ago,” Thomas said.
The alehouse will occupy what was formerly two separate storefronts in the building, with one side housing the kitchen, freezer, and food preparation area, and the other side featuring the bar, as well as indoor and outdoor seating for up to 70 patrons.
One of the centerpieces of the alehouse will be the bar surface, Locatelli said, which will be made from salvaged oak lumber from a Revolutionary War-era barn he found in Pennsylvania.
A San Lorenzo Valley native and graduate of San Lorenzo Valley High School, Thomas said that opening an alehouse in downtown Felton had long been a dream of hers.
She said that when she'd originally founded her brewing company, she had wanted to establish brewing operations in Felton, but found no places in town that could handle the amount of water necessary.
“I've always loved downtown Felton,” she said. “I always wanted to get back up here in some way.”
Locatelli said that although he'd originally purchased the building with the sole intention to “protect the parking” for New Leaf, he'd been looking for a while for the right project for the Cremer Building's downstairs, which has sat vacant since the former Empire Grille shut its doors some 10 years ago.
He had been “impressed with the proposal” when Thomas approached him, and was excited to see the restoration of the building for the restaurant, which he said “has become a labor of love for me.”
“It'll be the newest old building in town,” Locatelli said.
The Cremer Building, first constructed in the 1870s, is one of the few original buildings still in existence from Felton's days as a logging and railroad town, having survived two major earthquakes, fires, and wear and tear from 14 decades of near-constant usage.
In its near-140 years, the building — named for its original owner, Thomas Cremer — has spent time as a boarding house, doctor's office, various restaurants, and even a beekeeping business.
“This building deserves to be vibrant again,” Locatelli said. “It's been run-down for far too long.”