Hopmonk Novato Taking Shape, Poised For November Debut

Dean Biersch talks about changes being made to former Southern Pacific Smokehouse building at Vintage Oaks Shopping Center and why he's excited about opening in Novato.

Dean Biersch carefully steps over the new douglas fir flooring that's being installed inside his soon-to-be-open Novato restaurant and wipes the dust off a stool seat right next to the stage. He plops down and talks about how in a few months the lights of Hopmonk Tavern will shine down on top-flight musicians as they entertain patrons sipping libations from a long list of quality fine ales.

It was exactly two months ago when Biersch announced he was taking over the spot previously occupied by the at Novato's . First reported in the , the news was followed by eager to share their excitement and offer suggestions.

"That Patch story blew my mind because we got great information with all the communication on there about how the local people felt about it," said Biersch, a Sonoma resident and former co-owner of the Gordon Biersch craft brewing empire. "It was great stuff for us to read up and think about. A lot of those suggestions were really good ones."

Biersch, who owns Hopmonk Taverns in Sebastopol and Sonoma, then talked about an upgrade sounds system that should make musicians and music fans happy when the place opens sometime in November. The acoustics of the room were strong already, but the sound engineers will enjoy a new digital board and other ancillary equipment that goes with creating a standout audio experience, he said.

And big exterior upgrades: a marquee that will tell passersby who will be playing that night and a door added to the west side of the restaurant for entry directly into in the music hall.

"It will be very intimate and fun," he said. "Think about when people get older and they might not be as willing to drive a long way to see a show or they don't go out quite as much. Here they will be able to be close to some great artists. There is a massive amount of musical talent here and we're super excited about bringing them into the mix."

On the other side of the building, the front entry will be moved closer to the outdoor biergarten area where another small stage, a fire pit, a couple of small fountains and seating for diners will be situated among the trees — vintage oaks, of course.

"I grew up in Chico, and what really sold me on this place was the oaks trees," Biersch said. "I like those very much. This will be a great spot for a little bluegrass music on the weekends when we won't be bothering anybody nearby. I think it's going to be a very special atmosphere."

Inside, the former entry way will have an expanded beer bar — upwards of 14 to 16 taps, refrigerators for bottled beers, wall-mounted TV screens and seating where the greeters' station used to be located. The dining room area will have a sliding wall for quick access to the biergarten and some new booths; a few booths from the Smokehouse will remain. More changes could take place down the line, such as a larger patio area.

"We thought the site needed to be put in step with what we do, which means we're adding a little more craftiness to it," Biersch said. "It was a little shiny before. We're going to have a little bit of fun with this space."

Vintage Oaks management has been receptive and cooperative to all the changes, he said, paving the way for the same vibe that exists at the Sebastopol and Sonoma locations. The combination of good food, good beer and good music should work well, Biersch said.

Why will Novato work for Hopmonk? Biersch tells the story of creating a Gordon Biersch restaurant in Honolulu and hiring local people, respecting the local culture and being laid back about competition. There's no way a cookie-cutter approach would have been successful, he said. 

"Novato is not Sebastopol, it's not Sonoma, it's not Santa Rosa — it's totally different," he said. "We don't get worked up about the local competition because we just do our own thing and try to add something unique and fresh to the scene."

Asked if he'd put Novato's own  beer on tap, he said, "Oh, absolutely."


Watch the employment link on Hopmonk's website about plans to hire upwards of 50 people for the Novato location.

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Mark Schoenbaum September 07, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Blues, Brews, reasonable prices and someplace we can come as a family to enjoy music would be great! I think that the smokehouse failed because of high prices and limited access to the music.
Theresa September 08, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Sounds fantastic! I agree with Bob, there needs to be a dance floor so that it caters to everyone, sitters and those who can't sit still to great music! Novato needs a spot like this. There's the new Sweetwater in Mill Valley, Terrapin X Roads and George's in San Rafael, so now Novato will have available yet another option for music in Marin.
Ryan Lee September 11, 2012 at 12:00 AM
I hope they make a weekly reggae night like Sebastopol!! Bring it Dean!
Greg Gerrard September 13, 2012 at 04:22 AM
Hope the food is better than Sebastopol,ate there a couple of weeks.ago, really bad tasting, and the house beer was.skunky.
Novato Chess Club October 12, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Novato Chess Club Youth Fundraiser: Red Boy Pizza (Ignacio location) October 13, 2012 Posted on August 18, 2012 In partnership with College Dream Team, Novato Chess Club announces our community fundraiser at Red Boy Pizza on October 13, 2012. Support HYA “College Outreach Program”, and chess at San Jose Middle School and Lynwood Elementary for 2012-13. Saint Mary’s College and Cal State University East Bay will serve as our “college outreach” host for the 2012-13 academic year. We are asking for community support of our Novato afterschool chess program beginning October 9th and 10th. The event will be held from 2-6pm, featuring the smooth jazz sounds of local favorite Carl Oser. Donate, dine in, …order a pizza from Red Boy, on October 13, 2012. Support youth chess in Novato schools. We accept: paypal http://haywardyouthacademy.org/2012/08/18/novato-chess-club-youth-fundraiser-at-red-boy-pizza/


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