Downtown Paso Robles Location to Attract Beer Aficionados

This autumn, everyone from locals to tourists to beer aficionados will be able to enjoy a new spot to relax and enjoy a beer in Downtown when The Backyard beer garden opens in Paso Robles. Situated on the southeast corner of 13th and Railroad Street, where Chubby Chandler’s Pizza is a familiar fixture, Russell Baker’s nondescript lot doesn’t look much now. But in the fall, beer, pizza and activities will make it a fun place to gather.

“I saw a dead corner and thought about giving it some serious life,” said Russell.

Russell’s career has been in software sales, not a beer garden. A two-year stint at technology giant Oracle Corporation in Boston led to a position with Microfocus, the world’s seventh largest software company. He and his wife traveled and lived on both coasts before returning to Paso Robles a decade ago. But as Russell stood on a decrepit lot, the adjacent railroad tracks set the perfect industrial backdrop for his savvy idea.

“I was already sold on the idea of using shipping containers as structures in the beer garden. I liked the look, the feel, and the vibe,” said Russell. “I travel for my job, and I’ve been to places I’ve liked, like Beirgarten SF in Hayes Valley, and Fieldwork Brewing Company in Berkeley, which is going on its sixth location. There’s also a place on Treasure Island, called Mersea, that uses shipping containers (sea trains) in a real cool way.

“I talked to Steve Bryant, who own’s Chubby Chandler’s to ask if I could rent the back of the land his pizza place is on. He told me it was for sale,” said Russell. “That’s when I got kind of scared,” he admitted, referring to the real possibility that it could happen. “So, what am I going to do?”
Russell bought the parcel and got to work.

“I wanted a place that was family-friendly and dog-friendly, and a place where I’d want to go hang out and where parents could bring their kids and feel comfortable, too,” said Russell. “We met with the City and gave them pictures of what we wanted. But they advised us to get a pro architect to better convey what we wanted to them. So, we went to Larry Gabriel Architect in Paso Robles, who put our vision together.”

Anchoring the southwest corner of the 2,552-square-foot garden will be a revitalized structure for Chubby Chandler’s Pizza. On the southeast corner of the lot will be the beer service structure, featuring 24 to 30 taps from national and local craft brewers, including Firestone Walker and Tent City. On the northwest section will be off-street parking, and restroom facilities will be located on the northeast corner.

In addition to covered seating and misters to keep everyone cool, there will be horseshoe pits and activities such as shuffleboard and cornhole. A kids’ game area on the north end of the garden will offer a dedicated structure and a confined climbing space on which to frolic. Ideas for a treehouse are also being contemplated.

“I want shade during the day, but I want them to retract, too, so we can enjoy stars at night,” said Russell.

Sea trains are being used increasingly to build permanent structures, with a broad range of commercial, residential and industrial applications. VIP seating and fire pits are part of the plan, and Russell has envisioned The Backyard as a convenient location for light entertainment and special events, such as Oktoberfest.

“Russ stepped up and had a vision, and I’m happy to be in the loop. We couldn’t be more pleased with the facelift,” said Steve Bryant, co-owner of Chubby Chandler’s. “It fell into the right hands. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I hope to keep doing it for another 30; both Chubby Chandler’s Pizza and The Backyard will complement each other perfectly.”