Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian Robby Olson, owner of the Watsonville Public House, a new brewpub in downtown Watsonville, serves up a pint of Table Porter to Dana Sales on opening day Thursday.

The former Watsonville Meat Locker building — which later became Stevie G Meats — was a huge draw Thursday, but this time it was for something new: a pint of homemade beer inside a sparkling new brewery and taproom on Main Street.

The Watsonville Public House has been a dream of Watsonville Presbyterian minister Robby Olson and his wife, Jenni, when they came to Watsonville a decade ago. 

Work got underway in 2022 on a major rebuild, tearing up several layers of ancient flooring that included seven layers of cork from a previous cold storage facility,. After bundles of unexpected turns and permits every inch of the way, crowds of customers lined up from the 4pm opening bell into the evening.

The fully refurbished 6,748-square-foot building, Olson said, was molded to become a modern gathering spot downtown with home brew recipes on tap alongside a host of other microbrewery offerings.

“Digging up all the flooring, we found a horseshoe, pieces of old cars, old springs—things from around 100 years ago,” Olson said. “I can’t believe we actually opened; it took a lot of folks to get to this day.”

Watsonville native Sandra Chavez also arrived in the opening hour with a friend and her dog, Chico.

“I really hope they make it—this is something Watsonville needs,” she said. “Ever since the ‘89 quake downtown has gone downhill. I loved the days of Woolworths, the soda fountain at Ford’s, Jansen Music and JC Penny’s — when downtown was alive and full of people. I’m glad to be here today.”

Olson said he has an affinity for brewing his own beer, and has over the years honed his craft to one of quality and consistency.

The brewery’s flagship beer is Spanglish, which combines the corn-derived sweetness of Mexican beer with German yeast and West Coast hops, Olson said.

“We’re also starting off with an IPA and an extra pale ale,” he said. 

Former Watsonville Mayor Lowell Hurst also stood in a line of about eight people as he worked his way to the counter, which was hand-crafted from copper and wood.

“This is definitely going to improve occupancy downtown and add a synergetic element to the area,” he said. “I think it is part of so many great things happening in Watsonville.”

The Public House spawns from Olson’s passion for bringing friends together over mugs of his craft beer—combined with deep conversations that flowed from them.

And that sense of community-building, he says, helped form the backbone of his plans for the place, which include events such as speakers, book groups and storytelling nights. 

“One of my favorite parts of pastoring is helping people to tell their story well,” Olson said. “There is something that is deeply meaningful and really special about being able to both tell and receive those stories.”

Olson said he did his homework by tapping into local knowledge from Watsonville mainstays Fruition Brewing, Slough Brewing Collective and Santa Cruz Cider Co., and friends. Olson said wine, cider and non-alcoholic beverages are also on the menu.

He said the redwood used at the wall above the bar was reclaimed from the original building, 

“One of our board members works with copper and made the bar as a donation. The idea is to create a hospitality business that would seek to build community,” Olson said. “One of my visions from the very beginning was to create a safe space—a taproom for everyone to come, gather with friends and people you don’t already know and foster conversation.”

Hours for now include tonight, 4-8pm; Saturday noon-8pm; Sunday noon-6pm.The Watsonville Public House is at 625 Main St.

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


  1. Awesome addition! Looking forward to more businesses opening up and bringing life back to the downtown area.

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