First Street has no shortage of places to drink beer. However, residents have wanted a place to drink beers and enjoy live music in a garden setting while the sun is still up.
Jan Lucca is looking to fill that void.
Lucca has owned Lucca Bar & Grill since 2010 and previously operated O’Leary’s Pub for 13 years prior to that. His newest venture will be an outdoor beer garden in a 2,999 square foot lot next to Lucca Bar & Grill’s location at the corner of First and E streets. The annex will feature a tap draft system with 20 different beers, a full barbecue menu and live sets by artists of various genres. There will also be a fire pit, picnic tables and artwork highlighting Benicia’s history and artistic community.
According to Marty Duvall, who will manage the site’s outdoor bar called the “Cabana,” the management decided they needed to fill the space they had in back and determined what they could fill it with.
“It was a thought I’d had for a long time to fill that empty lot behind the restaurant,” Lucca said. “It came together where it became available, so I just decided to do it.”
“They recognized the demand for an outdoor garden and music venue, and they went to work on it militantly,” Duvall said. “They had to jump through a lot of hurdles with the city, county and state to get it done. It took over two years to get everything ready to go.”
The venue will be serving mostly craft beers with a focus on local microbrews. There will also be a variety of regional, national and international craft brews as well as macrobrewery favorites like Coors and Budweiser.
“We want to be an inclusive beer garden and not exclude anyone’s beer taste,” Duvall said.
The beer offerings will change periodically to accommodate the seasons or new favorites within the beer aficionado community. Duvall says the beer menu will be divided into three categories, each with a sea motif: “On the Sunny Shore” for lighter pilsners and lagers, “Smooth Sailing” for slightly darker ales and “Heavy Seas” for beers with a heavier alcohol content.
Wine and sangria will be offered, in addition to a full smoked barbecue menu. Duvall noted that the menu for the beer garden will not be the same as Lucca’s current menu.
“Even though they’re both Lucca operations, the current indoor restaurant operation will be separate from the outdoor menu,” he said. “Folks from the indoor restaurant won’t be able to order from the outdoor menu and vice versa. They’ll be two different operations.”
To complement the varied beer menu, the garden will also host an inclusive array of musical acts to perform. Patrons will enjoy artists from the worlds of blues rock, folk, bluegrass, gypsy jazz, Latin, country and a whole lot more. Duvall says the artists would be scheduled to perform during the daytime hours so patrons would not have to stay out too late.
“There’s a big demand for live music venues in Benicia and a big segment of the community that doesn’t want to stay out until midnight for a live music fix,” he said. “We’ll give the neighborhood a break after the sun goes down.”
Lucca says the beer garden should provide something different to Benicia and neighboring communities.
“I think it’s going to be a nice addition to the city of Benicia, and what I’ve been told is there’s nothing like this around for a great distance,” he said. “You’ll probably have to go to Napa County to find things like this. It’s a groundbreaking endeavor for Benicia, and I believe it will bring in more entertainment to the downtown.”
Duvall says the garden should be a fun, relaxing experience for people to sit down, have a beer and enjoy live music.
“Lucca’s is on a roll,” he said. “We just want to take it to the next level and have a different offering. It’s a good way to differentiate ourselves.”
The beer garden is scheduled to open in early June. It will be open from 4 to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays through Fridays and noon until approximately 10 p.m., with music ending at 8. The garden will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays except for reserved private events and special occasions. Although alcohol can only be legally consumed by those 21 and older, the food and music will make the venue suitable for all ages.
For more information, call the bar at 745-0943.