By Jeremy T. Gerlach, San Antonio Express-News
After years of planning and months of controversy, the Alamo Beer Company officially broke ground Friday on its $8 million East Side microbrewery at 415 Burnet Street.
Eugene Simor, founder of the company — which distributes “Alamo Golden Ale” — noted the project will be the largest microbrewery in San Antonio.
“People said it would be a cold day in hell before we saw any development on the East Side,” said Simor, flanked by District 2 councilwoman Ivy Taylor and Juan Garcia, president of the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association. “Well, it’s a cold day and we’ve come a hell of a long way.”
Simor said the brewery, which currently employs seven, could grow to 40 employees and produce about 41,000 barrels of beer within the next five to seven years. The brewery will also include a beer garden, administrative offices and space for an independent restaurant. Simor added that he wants to reach out to the surrounding neighborhoods to help fill his open positions, which will include jobs ranging from packaging and manufacturing to more advanced positions.
Taylor said that Simor’s effort was a crucial step to the revitalization of the East Side.
“We went through a long process to ensure the brewery was going to be woven into the fabric of this neighborhood,” Taylor noted.
The brewery, which Simor was initially set to build just north of the Hays Street bridge, drew concerns from some residents over how it might affect area safety. A group of activists, known as the Hays Street Bridge restoration group, also claimed that the property, which the city had obtained from a private donor, was meant to be turned into a public space. The group, with the help of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, is still involved in a lawsuit against the city over allowing the property to fall into private hands.
“Our beef was never with Simor, but with the city,” said Marisol Cortez, an Esperanza representative. “There is this theme (in San Antonio) of the privatization of public space, whether it be the closure of Main Street or the Univision demolition … we see the city putting the interests of developers over communities.”
Cortez added that Simor has shifted the location of his brewery south of the bridge, onto property that he owned previously.
“We’re not so concerned with that now, but he is still going to use the land (north) of the bridge for a parking lot,” she cautioned. “The lawsuit will still stand if that is the case.”
Still, Garcia said that most of the controversy among residents has died down.
“Besides the litigation contesting (the brewery), residents here get the idea, that this is a huge (step) to spur more investment in the area,” Garcia said. “It just increases the number of jobs here, and Simor has been very conscious of reaching out to the neighborhoods to see what our concerns were.”