Monkey Paw, iconic East Village brewpub, closes


For San Diego’s craft beer fans, there’s no more Monkey business.

“I regret to inform you that as of today Monkey Paw will be permanently closing its doors,” Onan Davis, manager of the iconic East Village brewpub, emailed fans Monday.

“It will become another bar eventually however, it’s going to take probably a few months before that comes to fruition.”

Monkey Paw’s demise has been predicted since April, when founder Scot Blair sued the brewpub’s current owner, Coronado Brewing Co. Blair alleged that brewery owes him $33,534 and interest due from a September 2017 promissory note.

The lawsuit will continue with a Sept. 28 hearing.

Why the brewpub’s last day came on Monday, though, is unclear. A spokeswoman for Coronado did not respond to several emails and calls.

Staff members, too, were given little warning. They were asked to attend an all-hands meeting Tuesday, but no one was scheduled to work past Monday.

Money Paw had a seven-year run. In 2011, Blair — the owner of South Park’s popular Hamilton’s Tavern — refashioned one of East Village’s mustiest watering holes, the Jewel Box, into a craft beer hangout with a frat-house vibe.

At its peak, the tiny brewery made about 650 barrels of beer a year. Yet it quickly acquired an over-sized reputation. Under brewer Cosimo Sorrentino, Monkey Paw was only two years old when it first triumphed at the Great American Beer Festival, winning a gold medal for a strong pale ale, Bonobos.

In 2016, it scored a gold medal at the World Beer Cup for its smoke beer, Ashes from the Grave.

Bigger, better days seemed assured in July 2017, when Coronado bought Monkey Paw for an undisclosed amount. Given Coronado’s deeper pockets and larger distribution network, plus Monkey Paw’s cult following among millennials, the brewpub seemed poised to expand.

But Coronado and Blair, who was under contract to the new owners, clashed over everything from beer recipes to marketing strategy.

At the same time, Coronado had invested in SouthNorte, an independent startup brewery with roots on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

“That’s part of the discussion: can we handle one brand or three brands, “ Coronado chief operating officer Brandon Richards said in May. “Right now, two brands makes the most sense.”

On Monday, Monkey Paw closed. And on Friday, SouthNorte will unveil its latest beers during a party at Telefonica, a Tijuana brewery.

Two brands have survived.