Pub at Hillcrest Whole Foods closes, Amazon Prime takes over
Whole Foods’ 7th Avenue Pub in Hillcrest, where customers could grab a beer and a meal, has closed, and the space is now a staging area for Amazon Prime grocery delivery.
The unexpected closing, which occurred earlier this month, coincides with the debut this week of Amazon’s two-hour free delivery of Whole Foods merchandise to Prime subscribers in San Diego County. San Diego is one of 10 metro areas across the country now eligible for Amazon delivery of Whole Foods merchandise.
The closure of the Hillcrest pub, which opened in 2013, marks a departure from the practice of many Whole Foods locations to include in-store dining venues customized to the neighborhood.
The Del Mar store, for example, is home to the Trifecta Tavern and La Jolla to Torrey Pints. Those restaurants and bars are still open.
A spokeswoman for Whole Foods declined to comment on the reason for the closure, saying only, “We often make updates to our stores and currently the 7th Avenue Pub is closed.”
Amazon as well did not return calls seeking comment. A visit to the space on Thursday shows that it is now a hub for grocery delivery. The former restaurant space has coolers, and there are large brown paper Whole Food bags being readied for delivery.
Amazon, which purchased Whole Foods last year for nearly $14 billion, already has integrated its Amazon lockers, which are used by online customers to retrieve their orders, into the grocery stores.
The closure of the Hillcrest pub caught customers and purveyors by surprise. So recent is the change that the store has not yet removed the restaurant from its website, which says the pub “offers 32 beers on tap and a creative menu.”
Richard Barry, a Hillcrest resident who lives within walking distance of the Whole Foods on University Avenue, said there was no advance notice of the closure. One day he saw the windows into the pub boarded up with a sign that said renovations were under way. Later on, once the window coverings were removed, Barry could see that the restaurant was gone.
“It was nice to have a craft beer there and they’d have a lunch special every day,” said Barry, who frequented the store and pub with his partner Jose Clem. “I can’t second-guess Amazon’s business decisions but I just wish they would have put up a notice and say, ‘thank you loyal customers,’ but there was none of that.”
Mike Hess, founder of Mike Hess Brewing, whose beers were on tap at the pub, said he was sorry to see the pub go.
“Grabbing a beer while going grocery shopping was a pretty cool thing,” Hess said. “We went over there for a couple of tap events and supported the brand there. It was just fun, unique.”
At the time the 7th Avenue Pub opened in 2013, a supervisor there described it as “just another avenue to get people in the door.”
The convergence of Amazon and Whole Foods already is proving to be financially lucrative by offering up another way to entice shoppers to come inside.
The installation of the lockers has boosted short visits to the stores by 11 percent, according to a study released last month by the Los Angeles-based digital advertising firm inMarket. By comparison, brief visits to Whole Foods stores with no lockers were up 7 percent, the firm said.
The lockers are what inMarket calls a magnet for micro visits, which it defines as store visits of three to five minutes.
“They’re the best example today of online-offline convergence, and retailers need to think about that in their planning,” said Dave Heinziger, vice president for communications at inMarket. “It’s almost like a convenience store approaching a gas customer. It’s up to that convenience store to figure out how to get that gas customer inside that store instead of just paying at the pump. A similar thing is happening with the visits at Whole Foods.
“The lockers are clearly succeeding and now it’s about turning those short visits into larger spending opportunities.”
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