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Beer garden, restaurant, event space proposed for Napa's Oxbow District
Oxbow District

Beer garden, restaurant, event space proposed for Napa's Oxbow District

From the Napa Valley Wine Insider Digest: April 17, 2021 series

For more than a decade, since the original Copia closed in 2008, the former south Copia garden and pavilion area has been effectively off-limits to visitors. 

That could be about to change.

A beer garden, restaurant, lounge seating and outdoor venue offering a “laidback luxury aesthetic, has been proposed for the 5-acre former Copia south garden and pavilion area.

If all goes as planned, the new gathering space, called Oxbow Yard, could open as soon as this summer at 585 First St., joining a tourist destination neighborhood that features the Oxbow Public Market and the CIA at Copia.

The use is temporary, said Perry Clark, an Oxbow Yard partner. In 2018 property owner Wayne O’Connell of Napa announced plans to develop the site into as many as 124 housing units. Any recent developments on that project have not been made public.

In the meantime, for at least three years Oxbow Yard will occupy the space, said Clark. 

Oxbow Yard LP of St. Helena recently submitted a temporary use permit with the City of Napa that includes details of the proposed plan.

Oxbow Yard LP includes four partners: Clark of Amizetta Winery in St. Helena, Chris Lehman of Frame Ventures in Marin and San Francisco, and Alan Guy and Richard Leider. Guy and Leider are listed as executives at Anvil Builders of San Francisco. 

“I’ve always wanted a place where you could take the kids and get some food and they could run around,” especially in downtown Napa, said Clark.

Oxbow Yard — “an outdoor area where you can get some really good food and grab a drink and enjoy the outdoors — seemed like a great fit,” said Clark. “I think it will be fun opportunity for everyone.”

While looking at other sites around Napa and the North Bay, “We saw this site and it’s just too good of an opportunity to pass up,” said Lehman.

According to the application, “Oxbow Yard is a modern outdoor gathering space that celebrates all that Napa Valley has to offer.”

Designed with both the community and out-of-town guests in mind, “Oxbow Yard is a place to gather and enjoy the park-like setting on the Napa River that showcases the work of local businesses,” the document said.

Oxbow Yard will feature “an outdoor community garden with a laid-back luxury aesthetic, casual restaurant with beer garden, comfortable lounge seating areas spread throughout the grounds and several multi-purpose event spaces,” the application said.

The project would also include “a curated collection of beverage offerings, sculpture and art displays, group events, unique photo-op moments, and pop-up experiences.”

Oxbow Yard could feature local museums, restaurant and small business pop-ups, art and sculpture displays, movie nights, wine tasting, or corporate events and group meetings.

Oxbow Yard “experiences” could also boast a wine collective, “picnic areas with grills that can be reserved for a fully prepared cook-it-yourself barbecue, private chef dinners, and spontaneous collaboration for local musicians.”

A project called Oxbow Yard could be coming to the former Copia south garden area. It could include a beer garden, lounge area, gathering space, restaurant, coffee vendor and other amenities. The space has been home to a culinary garden, which will remain.

The site infrastructure could include bike racks and rentals, coffee vendor, a dog run, culinary garden, fire pits, lounge seating, large format outdoor movie screen, and pergola structures for shade. Notably, local chefs can continue to harvest from the culinary garden as they have for some time.

Operations would be centered on the existing pavilion kitchen and bathrooms, located immediately east of the south Copia parking lot. Containers previously used near the San Francisco Giants stadium in a related project called The Yard at Mission Rock will be repurposed at the Napa site.

Picnic areas, private event spaces, pergolas and lounge areas will be spread throughout the gardens. Additional kitchen facilities and distilling capabilities will be added to the pavilion area to create the restaurant and beer garden, said the application.

Due to COVID-19, large private events will be limited. However, “smaller events like birthday parties and elopements are anticipated,” said the application.

To alleviate parking concerns, Clark and Lehman said Oxbow Yard employees will park at a former county corporation yard at 933 Water St. Transportation for large events will be provided to reduce parking demand. Valet and offsite parking will be secured as needed. Biking will be promoted. A shuttle bus option will also be explored.

“Coordination with neighboring businesses will be ongoing to explore potential parking solutions,” said the applicant.

Security and safety protocols will be enacted including venue guidelines, safety equipment, and signage.

Clark said they hope to open Oxbow Yard quickly.

“Sooner is better. We don’t want to miss the great weather and pent-up demand of people who want to get out and do something,” he said.

On a side note, the partners said they originally approached Safeway about using the parking lot of the long-shuttered downtown Napa Safeway building at 1620 Clay St.

“It seemed like a no-brainer to me,” said Clark about using the Safeway property. The parking lot is vacant, after all.

Unfortunately, “Nobody wanted to even consider it which is too bad,” said Clark. “There’s just no wiggle room there.”

As for the north Copia property, today it is operated by the Culinary Institute of America as the CIA at Copia. 

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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