By Elena Kadvany
Facing monthslong closure due to chemical contamination, Mountain View brewery Tied House calls it quitsUploaded: Dec 23, 2019
Mountain View's longstanding Tied House abruptly closed over the weekend after owner Louis Jemison received "disappointing" news about a lengthy, required closure due to contamination from a past chemical spill.
Jemison said he plans to retire and will not reopen the brewpub, which has operated at 954 Villa St. for three decades.
Mountain View's Tied House, considered to be Silicon Valley's first microbrewery, has closed. Photo by Michelle Le.
Decades ago, the building housed a dry cleaning business, which used two potentially dangerous chemical agents, Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE), according to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. The building tested positive for the chemicals, which they believed it was limited to one part of the building (the brewery's alleyway) and was not at a level that would be dangerous to the public, Jemison said. An investigation and plans for remediation started in October, with Tied House expected to remain open during the process. But on Friday, it was discovered that two additional areas — where the restaurant’s main sewer line runs — also need to be excavated, Jemison said he was told by his landlord, M & J Land and Equipment Leasing Company (where he said he owns a minority position as a limited partner and is not the general partner). Work had to begin immediately and could take up to nine months to complete.
"We had hoped this would not be the case," Jemison wrote in an email. "But hope gave out on last Friday."
Jemison opened Tied House with Andreas Heller in 1988, inspired by a visit to a microbrewery near Heller’s hometown in Germany. It's considered to be Silicon Valley's first microbrewery.
A beer flight at Tied House. Palo Alto Weekly file photo.
More recently, ownership planned to revitalize the brewpub after city officials rejected a bid by Tied House and the next-door Michelin-starred Chez TJ to build a four-story office building with underground parking and a new restaurant space on their combined parcels. The plan was also a solution to a directive from the state to clean up the chemicals, Jemison said.
The proposal sparked strong opposition, particularly among residents who railed against the cost of office growth for Mountain View's neighborhoods. The development firm Minkoff Group still could pursue revised plans to redevelop the sites, according to the Mountain View Voice.
Last October, Jemison told the Voice that Tied House wasn't going anywhere: "We're going to be here way past my lifetime," he said.
But shifting sands in the craft brewery scene and local economy have changed things. The microbrewery industry has exploded in the decades since Tied House open. Quality beer is more widely available, Jemison noted, while economic pressures for local restaurants have only mounted.
"Full-service, mid-range pricing is tough to do in Mountain View (or anywhere in the Bay Area) due to the high rents of space, the high rents for employees’ living space, the lack of daytime parking, the advent over the past decade and a half of food service being available at the large employer campuses ... and so on," he said.
Tied House staff were reportedly given one day's notice of the closure, according to customers who were at the brewpub over the weekend and posted about it on NextDoor.
Jemison said that "this was not or should not have been a surprise to the Tied House management and crew, only disappointing."