Rendering of Leisuretown, a partnership between LAB Holding and Modern Times Beer, that will be developed in restored buildings on Anaheim Boulevard. | Courtesy Studio One Eleven and representatives of the City of Anaheim.

Why Anaheim’s Craft-Brewery Sector is So Hot

Carrie Rossenfeld Retail

The city of Anaheim, California, is attracting a large number of craft breweries. According to representatives of the City of Anaheim, the submarket now houses 15 craft breweries, and this number will soon increase to 21.

City representatives also say, “More Anaheim breweries opened in the past two years than in any other city in Orange County, and Anaheim now has half of all the breweries in Orange County, California.”

In a recent statement distributed by the City’s representatives, John Woodhead, director of community and economic development for the City, said, “Anaheim is evolving into a hub for microbreweries, larger brewery developers, and for the tastemakers that propel industry trends. We are combining regulatory innovations with the power of breweries to drive economic revitalization. This includes very creative re-uses of historic buildings, infusing them with an authentic sense of place.”

Also in the statement, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said, “What the wine industry did for Napa, craft breweries can do for Anaheim.” City representatives say in 2014, Tait had announced the <b>“Brew City” initiative in order to streamline the approval process for new craft breweries.

John Woodhead | Courtesy representatives of the City of Anaheim

Woodhead tells SoCal Real Estate that the craft-brewery sector is heating up in Anaheim largely because of Tait’s efforts. “Our mayor sponsored a regulatory-relief effort and task force for exploring ways Anaheim could relieve the regulatory burden we put on developers. We have always been a developer-friendly city, but from time to time we look at areas where we can relax regulations.”

Recently, in the course of this effort, and while seeing some of the first applicants for craft breweries, the City realized the sector was ripe for regulatory reform, Woodhead says. It relaxed the need for a conditional-use permit for craft breweries, allowing these establishments to open in all commercial and industrial sectors of the city.

“We also realized that the Orange County Health Care Agency was responsible for some of the regulations related to craft breweries — they were being treated similarly to restaurants, with racking requirements that didn’t apply to the brew scene,” says Woodhead. “We were able to persuade them to give up their regulatory oversight there and transfer it to the City.”

In starting the “Brew City” initiative, Woodhead says the mayor wanted to entice as many craft breweries as possible into the city. “We now have a ‘Brew City ambassador’ to act as concierge to help them through the open-title process.”

In enabling craft brewers to set up shop more easily, Woodhead says a lot of interesting synergies were discovered between the breweries and the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. “There are not a whole lot of places in the entire world where you have hundreds of millions of visitors coming to such a small area. A lot of folks traveling through the area, and there’s a large market for craft breweries here.”

Moving forward, Woodhead says the City will continue to pursue craft brewers for it. “I don’t think you can have too many of them. Like what Sonoma and Napa did for the wine industry, you reach a critical mass that makes that aspect of the economy attractive to travelers.”

Stay tuned for a more in-depth feature on the Anaheim craft-brewery phenomenon in the November issue of SoCal Real Estate.