Stone Brewing plans 99-room hotel in Escondido

Stone Brewing announced a 99-room boutique hotel Thursday tied to its Escondido brewery and restaurant, but with the caveat that it's about more than beer.

It is believed to be the first of its kind - a ground-up property linked to a popular brand and the craft beer movement.

Stone founder Greg Koch said the $26 million, four-story building at 1990 Citracado Parkway will be developed under a license to a new hotel entity, Untitled Hospitality, in partnership with McMillin, an offshoot of the Corky McMillin Companies.

"It's an environmental experience, a culinary experience, a cultural experience," Koch said of the project's vision. "It's not really beer-themed - you won't come in and experience flowing rivers of beer or hops motifs all over the place."

San Diego County counts 114 locally based breweries and brewpubs that generated $851 million in sales and employed 4,512 workers last year, according to the National University Systems' Institute for Policy Research. That's up from 37 establishments and 1,630 workers in 2011.

The industry has also become a growing part of the region's tourism business. Numerous beer tours attract visitors from around the world. At Stone Brewing's Escondido plant, 50,000 of its annual 500,000 customers signed up for tours last year. The annual San Diego Beer Week, scheduled Nov. 4-13, is expected to draw about 20,000 participants.

And the San Diego Tourism Authority has made the burgeoning beer business a key feature of its marketing campaign.

"In fact, San Diego was named one of the "Best Beer Towns in America" by Men's Journal and cited as a 'sunny heaven for suds lovers' by the New York Times," the tourism office says.

The designers are toying with various concepts, such as outdoor showers for some guestrooms, food-anywhere service, an elevator outfitted as a "kinetic sculpture" and a four-story, light-filled atrium that runs through the middle the building.

"You're going to discover something unexpected, and I want it to be 'Easter eggs' everywhere," said veteran hotelier Robert Cartwright, whose newly established Untitled Hospitality will own and operate the property.

He said small surprise touches could include "growler cabinets" for storing oversize bottles of beer in a guest room, Stone Brewing-commissioned bars of soap in bathrooms, and, upon registering at the front desk, a complimentary glass of Stone beer brewed only for the hotel.

The rooms are being designed to be about 50 percent bigger than typical hotel guest rooms, based on projections that two or more people will often occupy each room.

Also, rather than the usual sliding-glass door, a floor-to-ceiling window system will flip open to increase the access to each balcony.

If Escondido approves the project, construction on the 13-acre site could begin next spring and be completed in the first quarter of 2018. Cartwright said the average daily room rate would exceed $200 if the hotel were open today - compared with the more common area rate of $100 to $150.

About 500,000 people visit the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens immediately west of the hotel site, and inland North County also draws visitors to area wineries and breweries, San Diego Zoo Safari Park and CSU San Marcos. The hotel site also is down the street from Palomar Medical Center, which is projected to fill about 30 percent of the hotel rooms each day.

"What a great sanctuary to get away to if you're in town for a not-so-pleasant situation," Cartwright said.

Stone first announced its intentions in 2011 to develop an $11 million hotel of less than 50 rooms. But Koch put it on hold as he focused on other projects - a company headquarters packaging hall next to the bistro, and breweries and restaurants in Point Loma, Richmond, Va., and Berlin. Hotel financing also was problematic at that early stage of the economic recovery from the recession.

"Really we were more geared to our main focus, which, of course, is brewing," Koch said.

Cartwright and Hamann Companies, which designed and built Stone's other local projects, dusted off the old plans and began fine-tuning the details. Hamann architect Paul Giese and Basile Studio principal Paul Basile, who will handle interior design, said various ideas include:

? Incorporation of large onsite boulders and the Stone gargoyle logo;

? A lobby waterfall and bar;

? Food service throughout the property rather than at standard restaurants or cafes; guests would be eligible for priority seating at the Stone bistro;

? A 10,000-square-foot roof garden adjacent to the pool deck and 1,800-square-foot fitness;

? Nearly one acre of outdoor event space, plus various gardens and trails.

But the roughly 100,000-square-foot building also will include the usual amenities, such as 10,000 square feet of meeting and ballroom space.

McMillin CEO Andy McMillin, grandson of the late-developer Corky McMillin, said he and his father, Scott, will lend expertise in land development and possibly take an equity position. They are handling similar services for another Untitled Hospitality hotel.

Hotel owner and industry expert Robert Rauch, who looked into developing the Stone Hotel six years ago, said the larger size now proposed makes it more feasible. Its upscale concept should appeal to millennials and other travelers looking for a unique experience.

"That whole area is booming," he said. "There's definitely an opportunity there."

Until now, Rauch said breweries and wineries have not entered the hotel business in a big way, largely because of the necessary expertise required. He said he knows of no other similarly sized and branded, ground-up hotel anywhere. But the idea could spread if Stone is successful.

Koch said he is not yet ready to pursue similar deals at his growing network of brewery outlets. But Cartwright, who currently lives with his family in New Hampshire and worked several times at the Sheraton San Diego and many other properties around the country, said he is searching for other opportunities.

He said he has broached the idea of a Safari Park hotel to zoo officials and thinks an Apple-branded hotel or a hotel at the Cabrillo National Monument would make sense.

As for obvious beer-related references, the design and development team hasn't discarded anything quite yet.

The hotel library might be stocked with beer-related books and magazines. The 99-room count coincidentally brings to mind the "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" song, and Cartwright thought something might be made from that.

But designer Basile said he wasn't sure if Beer Pong drinking game played on a ping pong table "would make the cut."

Source: DiscoverSD

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