Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, which opened Wednesday in Point Loma 's Liberty Station, is a mammoth place capable of seating 700 patrons. Next door, Sushi Mura can handle 46. The Japanese restaurant's owner, Jin Jo, is facing a business version of David vs. Goliath.
He's rooting for Goliath.
"We're hoping this will draw more people, because it's Stone," Jo said. "This complex is only about 70 percent occupied. We need more night life here, more restaurants and bars."
On the former site of the Naval Training Center, Liberty Station has spent more than a decade struggling to find its sea legs. In 2002, homesteaders made down payments on the first residences being built there. Office buildings and businesses followed, but tenants and customers have lagged behind.
"It was below the expectations that I think everybody had," said Bill Shrader, senior director at Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate broker. "It needed a big anchor to go out there, and Stone is serving as that anchor."
Matt Gordon, owner/chef of North Park's Urban Solace, last year considered Liberty Station as the site of a new venture. "It's a weird space," he concluded. "It is an old military base, and it wasn't designed to be a commercial area."
The old base's commercial potential will be tested by Stone, whose 23,500-square-foot operation is its largest retail enterprise. Will these craft brewers, known for catchphrases like "You're Not Worthy" and names like Arrogant Bastard Ale, liberate Liberty Station from its underachieving reputation?
That may not be easy, but Gordon likes Stone's chances. "For the right business, it's a great location - and I think Stone is the right business," he said. "Their draw, their mystique - they have a cult following that is insane."
For example: When the brewery restaurant opened Wednesday, the first person in line was Chief Petty Officer Darlon Flint, who ordered wild boar ribs - and water. "I'm in uniform," he explained, "so unfortunately I can't have a beer. But I'll be back tonight and probably start with a Stone IPA."
This kind of passion is exactly what Jo was counting on. He was already considering Liberty Station as his restaurant's site when he learned that a large brewpub was moving in.
"So I checked Stone in Escondido," he said. "A nice restaurant with a lot of people."
That sealed the deal.
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens
Where: Liberty Station, 2816 Historic Decatur Road, Building 1, San Diego
Contact: (619) 269-2100; stonelibertystation.com
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, through May 26, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, starting June 2, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. with brunch served until 3 p.m.
Read Peter Rowe's full story and more on utsandiego.com