There’s not much “good” in “goodbye” when it comes to parting with a favorite restaurant and brewery where, like in the long-running “Cheers” TV sitcom, “everybody knows your name.”
For more than a dozen years, the popular Silverado Brewing Company in north St. Helena was that kind of place, a brewpub where a young family could afford to eat without taking out a second mortgage to pay for it. A “watering hole” where men and women gathered to cheer the 49ers and Giants on television or just shoot the bull. An establishment that — through brewmeister Ken Mee’s microbeers — offered an alternative for the strictly beer-drinking minority in the heart of wine country. Or just a stopoff where homeward-bound commuters could relax over a libation before heading on up Highway 29.
But as of this past Sunday, all that came to a melancholy end, leaving the multitude of regulars with no place to go and leaving 45 employees without jobs. Silverado Brewing Company was permanently closed, and managing partner Michael Fradelizio, whose lease was bought out by the property owner, said there are no plans to reopen at a new location.
“It’s really sad this place is going away,” said Michele Barberi, a retired postal worker and St. Helena resident, who had just finished the last meal she’d ever have at Silverado. “The [patrons] here are like second family and the people who work here are worried about what they’re going to be doing. This, to me, is the only family-style restaurant left in St. Helena and St. Helena lost it.”
Keith Kortera, who said he has been coming to Silverado Brewing three or four days a week for about as long as it’s been in business, also called the closing “a sad moment.”
“It’s been great place for people to come, and an easy place to come,” he said. “There’s always parking.”
Ida Ortiz, a Silverado waitress since 2007, said she was “already sad” when a Star reporter talked to her earlier in the week.
What she’ll do next? “I have no idea,” Ortiz replied. “All of us who worked here hung out here.”
Fradelizio said he was surprised by the public’s response to the closing.
“I can’t believe the interest and all the people who have called and come by to see us,” he said. “A lot of them said, ‘Put it somewhere else.’”
Mee, a part owner, was equally surprised. He had been besieged by so many fans of Silverado Brewing asking him about the closing that he wore a T-shirt reading “Yes, it’s true” on Sunday, Nov. 25, which would be the brewpub’s last day.
“I’ve been asked about the closing 3 million times,” said Mee, who sat at the end of Silverado’s crowded bar. “I knew we were supported by the city, but I never expected anything like this.”
One of the saddest moments for those supporters will occur next month, when huge tanks in which Mee made his brew for the past few years will be dismantled and shipped to a restaurant and brewery in Cincinnati.
As for Mee, like the Silverado Brewing employees, he is unsure of what he’ll do next.
“I need to take some time,” he said. “I’m 53 years old, so I’m not so hirable. There are no winners and no losers in this kind of situation.”
As the crowd began to thin, a customer voiced the sentiment, “There’ll never be another restaurant like this one.” We didn’t catch his name. It could have been said by anybody in the restaurant ... or everybody.