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Facing monthslong closure due to chemical contamination, Mountain View brewery Tied House calls it quits

Uploaded: Dec 23, 2019
Mountain View's longstanding Tied House abruptly closed over the weekend after owner Louis Jemison received "disappointing" news about a lengthy, required closure due to contamination from a past chemical spill.

Jemison said he plans to retire and will not reopen the brewpub, which has operated at 954 Villa St. for three decades.


Mountain View's Tied House, considered to be Silicon Valley's first microbrewery, has closed. Photo by Michelle Le.

Decades ago, the building housed a dry cleaning business, which used two potentially dangerous chemical agents, Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE), according to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. The building tested positive for the chemicals, which they believed it was limited to one part of the building (the brewery's alleyway) and was not at a level that would be dangerous to the public, Jemison said. An investigation and plans for remediation started in October, with Tied House expected to remain open during the process. But on Friday, it was discovered that two additional areas — where the restaurant’s main sewer line runs — also need to be excavated, Jemison said he was told by his landlord, M & J Land and Equipment Leasing Company (where he said he owns a minority position as a limited partner and is not the general partner). Work had to begin immediately and could take up to nine months to complete.

"We had hoped this would not be the case," Jemison wrote in an email. "But hope gave out on last Friday."

Jemison opened Tied House with Andreas Heller in 1988, inspired by a visit to a microbrewery near Heller’s hometown in Germany. It's considered to be Silicon Valley's first microbrewery.


A beer flight at Tied House. Palo Alto Weekly file photo.

More recently, ownership planned to revitalize the brewpub after city officials rejected a bid by Tied House and the next-door Michelin-starred Chez TJ to build a four-story office building with underground parking and a new restaurant space on their combined parcels. The plan was also a solution to a directive from the state to clean up the chemicals, Jemison said.

The proposal sparked strong opposition, particularly among residents who railed against the cost of office growth for Mountain View's neighborhoods. The development firm Minkoff Group still could pursue revised plans to redevelop the sites, according to the Mountain View Voice.

Last October, Jemison told the Voice that Tied House wasn't going anywhere: "We're going to be here way past my lifetime," he said.

But shifting sands in the craft brewery scene and local economy have changed things. The microbrewery industry has exploded in the decades since Tied House open. Quality beer is more widely available, Jemison noted, while economic pressures for local restaurants have only mounted.

"Full-service, mid-range pricing is tough to do in Mountain View (or anywhere in the Bay Area) due to the high rents of space, the high rents for employees’ living space, the lack of daytime parking, the advent over the past decade and a half of food service being available at the large employer campuses ... and so on," he said.

Tied House staff were reportedly given one day's notice of the closure, according to customers who were at the brewpub over the weekend and posted about it on NextDoor.

Jemison said that "this was not or should not have been a surprise to the Tied House management and crew, only disappointing."

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Comments

 +   30 people like this
Posted by Elena Kadvany, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 23, 2019 at 2:42 pm

Elena Kadvany is a registered user.


 +   50 people like this
Posted by Former Regular, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Dec 23, 2019 at 3:13 pm

This is so shady and not surprising at all. M & J is owned by Louis Jemison! He is his own landlord. He's known for years that there was contamination. I'm sorry his staff were let go right before Christmas. That just speaks volumes about the kind of business Louis runs.


 +   30 people like this
Posted by mary hodder, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 23, 2019 at 5:39 pm

The article states that "new" contamination was found at their sewer line, but >3y ago (February) when I spoke with the woman who is the project manager, Jayantha Randeni, where she said the levels were "stable" and the site could be used indefinitely with proper ventilation. It didn't have to be cleaned up and in fact the Minkoff plan to excavate 20 feet down and remove that soil would not remove the pollutants completely because they likely went to 100' down (water table) and so from 20-100' below the surface there would still be lots of them. And they would require all the ventilation required now. The numbers weren't increasing and ventilation brought things to acceptable levels. Web Link

The following March I called again, and read subsequent reports at Envirostor from Trinity, Minkoff's contractor. Same thing from Randeni. Basically venting was fine and the site was "stable" in that there was not a change.

A month ago, she sent a letter to Minkoff releasing him from the Voluntary Cleanup Agreement (where they were hiring a private company to test and write reports). Presumably this means that Minkoff and Group are no longer involved with the property? Web Link

There are no new reports or anything listed from the state "requiring" that the site be cleaned up, or noting any new areas of contamination. I suppose that could be coming to the Envirostor site.

But the article says: "Tied House abruptly closed over the weekend after owner Louis Jemison received 'disappointing' news about a lengthy, required closure due to contamination from a past chemical spill. Work had to begin immediately and could take up to nine months to complete."

However, each time I've talked with Randeni she's said that as soon as there is anything to post she does it within a day or so to the Envirostor website. So why no letter or report supporting this statement by Jemmison as the reason to abruptly close?

And yes: "M & J Land and Equipment Leasing Company" is Jemmison. So.. he is raising his own rent and using that as an excuse to close with a day's notice just before xmas?

The whole thing is very suspicious.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by mary hodder, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 23, 2019 at 5:53 pm

The Sec of State of CA website lists this info about Jemison and his company, J & M Land and Equipment Leasing Co:

198710500024 M AND J LAND AND EQUIPMENT LEASING COMPANY, A CALIFORNIA LIMITED PARTNERSHIP

Registration Date:04/13/1987
Jurisdiction:CALIFORNIA
Entity Type:DOMESTIC
Status:ACTIVE
Agent for Service of Process:LOUIS L. JEMISON


 +   50 people like this
Posted by Livable, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 23, 2019 at 6:03 pm

Mary, you should be proud! You and Livable Mountain View preserved the historic laundromat for all time and made sure that the business occupying it will cease to exist. Don't be so modest and try to give credit to the owners. Mountain View will become so much more livable without this pesky Tied House thanks to your hard work.


 +   40 people like this
Posted by great job by LMV, a resident of Castro City,
on Dec 23, 2019 at 6:30 pm

Great job preserving this historical laundromat, Livable Mountain View. What could be better for the local people than being able to walk by this deserted laundromat and know that they saved it.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by MVMike, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 23, 2019 at 6:39 pm

MVMike is a registered user.

Tied House opened in the first wave of California brewpubs and both their beer and food program was very good for years. Unfortunately, both declined in quality over the years. This is the key paragraph:

"But shifting sands in the craft brewery scene and local economy have changed things. The microbrewery industry has exploded in the decades since Tied House open. Quality beer is more widely available, Jemison noted, while economic pressures for local restaurants have only mounted."

With the rejection of the redevelopment proposal, I'm sure he was ready to call it quits.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by mary hodder, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 24, 2019 at 12:44 am

To "Great Job LMV":

I'm guessing you aren't aware of the historical importance of the Airbase Laundry building. The Tilt up construction is one of the first examples of the then-new technology. The matching of the architecture with the preserved historic buildings at Moffett is also important. The history of the building includes the innovation of construction in MV by the building community when the building opened (it was an engineering marvel and all the local trades took out ads in the local paper to say so and congratulate the construction team). And the family that put it in also referenced their home country architecture as well. Its a really interesting combination of features and aesthetic that makes MV unique and interesting and not mall or office-park-like.

MV has a history of technical innovation and entrepreneurial spirit and the Airbase Laundry architecture and engineering is a wonderful early example of this in the founding of Silicon Valley. Moffett and NASA brought that to MV, back when Stanford was only into mining and forestry and other kinds of tech we don't associate with SV. Moffet/NASA caused Stanford to evolve into the leader it is now in innovation. And MV is a big part of the reason SV is here and not in San Diego or Pasadena or SF. It doesn't really matter what the building was used for.. and putting it down based upon its original use just seems ignorant.

Additional info here: Web Link

In time I hope you'll be proud of what MV stands for and has built and the roots of SV innovation that started in our town.


 +   14 people like this
Posted by Former Tied House Employee, a resident of another community,
on Dec 24, 2019 at 3:56 am

I was one of the original Tied House employees when it opened in early 1988. It is amazing to me that Lou Jemison lasted this long as I never thought he was very smart as a restauranteur.


 +   24 people like this
Posted by great job by LMV, a resident of Castro City,
on Dec 24, 2019 at 9:36 am

[Post removed.]


 +   5 people like this
Posted by mary hodder, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 24, 2019 at 12:05 pm

UPDATE from Envirostor, Jayantha RANDENI. 
So just spoke with her and this is what I learned:

* The owner (Jemison) has planned for a while to close Tied House and make offices in the current building, which is not going away.

* Owner did find contamination in the sewer of the TCE and PCE chemicals, and the sewer line is broken and leaking into the soil / water table so they have to replace the sewer.

* Owner has delivered docs to Envirostor which aren't final (just draft) with plans for cleanup. That's why she hasn't posted anything since her letter to Minkoff in November with the release from the project for his group.

* The plans are that maybe by April? Jayantha will receive the final proposal for cleanup of soil under the building, it will be open for public comments, and then if all approved, they will do a vacuum process to suck the PCE / TCE from under the building, without messing with the building as it is now. That remediation will probably happen in later Summer and be overseen by Envirostor.

* Prior to April, she thinks starting relatively soon, Owner will replace the sewer which doesn't require state oversight.

* She knew that they were closing for a while, and asked me when they closed (I told her in the last day or two) but knew that it is planned to turn into offices after the 9 months of remediation and sewer repair.

* She also said that her office knew about the sewer break and sewer area contamination for the last couple of months.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by mary hodder, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 24, 2019 at 12:14 pm

To "great job by LMV":

The information I shared is all documented and was presented to the State Historical Commission and the National Park Service historical registry. I think what you are really saying is that you don't like the architecture, the look, of the building, and that's every person's right to their own opinion. No one building will be liked by everyone. But the innovation stands and is factual. And the way that MV brought about innovation through Moffett / NASA is also documented. No real comparison there to Trump who makes up stuff.


 +   17 people like this
Posted by Fake news, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 24, 2019 at 12:56 pm

I understand the building ownership is not planning to change anything on the exterior part of the building in order to preserve the historical significance as discussed above. [Portion removed.]. I'm wondering exactly what it is that she and her organization wants the owners and Lou Jemison to do with the building. I have frequented the Tied House with my family for many years. Great memories. The business has been a staple in downtown MV for +30 years. In fact, the owners bet on and invested in MV way back when it was a lot different than today. But the run is over. The model is obsolete. Should they have a Cheesecake Factory move in? Maybe a Chili's or a Yard House? Or shall the city buy the building back from them? [Portion removed.] This ownership group is doing the best with what they can with the situation. [Portion removed.]


 +   5 people like this
Posted by JJ, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Dec 24, 2019 at 1:11 pm

...a few months ago, service was slow, unmotivated and lacked all attention to detail. Food was cold, bland and hugely underwhelming. Not a loss by any means...


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Bill Bob, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 24, 2019 at 1:46 pm

Why does MV reject so much development when they need it so badly? Seems like they should vote up a better city council.


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Pete, a resident of Mountain View,
on Dec 24, 2019 at 1:50 pm

There was once the Palo Alto Brewery, on Polaris, run in an old milk processing facility by Mike Stoddard, who became the first brewmaster at Tied House. I believe they moved some of his old equipment into the TH building.
For beer aficionados, Pete's Wicked Ale was conceived and "developed" (LOTS of "QA") in the PAB facility. They used to give out free beer on Friday afternoons, which was great until Stanfordites found out about it, then it was overrun and that was that.
Mike Stoddard went to Sunnyvale, opened Stoddard's brewpub on Murphy, and that's history as well.


 +   36 people like this
Posted by It’s historic, a resident of Mountain View,
on Dec 24, 2019 at 2:23 pm

Sounds like Mary hodder is the Mountain View equivalent of Palo Alto's Karen Holman ( everything is historic and must be preserved. Private property rights be damned). Ooh. It was a laundry once!!!! I am sure the tourists will be flocking to see it.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Santa Claus, a resident of Shoreline West,
on Dec 24, 2019 at 4:34 pm

Historical preservation...check. Enviro clean-up...check. Sad to hear the Tied House has closed. Always liked that place.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by MyOpinion, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Dec 25, 2019 at 11:29 pm

We don't need more office space in downtown, my prediction: this space will sit empty for months, just like Books Inc (former location). There are an increasing number of empty storefronts on Castro, it's beginning to look run down, sidewalks look grimy, the commercial landlords and the City had better wake up before it is too late.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by also myopinion, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 26, 2019 at 2:40 pm

To add my voice to that of "MyOpinion", the long-idle empty locations on Castro disgraceful. For example, the old Bierhaus at Castro/California is such an eyesore now. Can the city really be held hostage by a tiny minority that object to things like the style of the columns?! Such a disservice they've done to the city as a whole by driving the replacement business away.

Also, can anyone comment on the long dormant "New China Delight" building next to Ava's market? A big space that seems to have been empty for a decade?

The nearby old Books Inc location as others have noticed, and several smaller stores on the next block too (thankfully with some sporadic pop-up activity).

Whatever is going on, whether it's high rent or poor quality city committees, the city is really degrading :-(


 +   5 people like this
Posted by kd94025, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Dec 26, 2019 at 5:23 pm

You would honestly have to be fairly blind to not see that the owner didn't get what they wanted and basically is backdooring the development. It's reasonable for people to be worried about having large office buildings which bring ever more people into an already nearly unbearably crowded area, and erases some history in the process.

I thought Tied House was interesting to go to long ago, but I haven't been recently.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Sane Mountain View, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 26, 2019 at 8:50 pm

Sane Mountain View is a registered user.

To Fake News:

I believe "mary hodder" said in comments Tied House will become offices. That seems like a good use of the current building. Though we really don't need more offices. We need housing. But maybe given the venting required, it cannot be housing.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by mary hodder, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 26, 2019 at 9:08 pm

It's historic:

What a stretch. Preserve 2 buildings and suddenly I want to preserve everything? Way to make things up.

I have said repeatedly here and elsewhere, we have a few buildings that are nice, were on the historic list, but the city allowed a few owners who purchased historic buildings to remove them from the list 10y ago. Those should still be on the historic list as those owners expected when they bought (Chez TJ too). You keep the historic buildings and build new in between.

Otherwise you are downtown Sunnyvale in a hurry. No-wheres-ville fast. If you enjoy that, I would suggest you move to Sunnyvale or similar.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Bill, a resident of another community,
on Dec 27, 2019 at 1:34 pm

This is just sad. First Gordon Biersch closed, now Tied House. It is sad to lose the pioneer brewpubs. Unfortunately, word on the street was that Tied House quality slipped in recent years.

I'll leave the discussion of whether or not the TH building is historic, but it is regrettable that MV loses another long-time business.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 28, 2019 at 5:41 pm

[Portion removed.]

One thing is for sure. Mountain View doesn't need more office space. Palo Alto doesn't need more office space. Menlo Park doesn't need more office space. I can't say for sure who does need more office space, except Mountain House/Tracy.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 29, 2019 at 8:38 am

It is clear as day, the intent is to bring a large building to the site. This is the next chapter. Successive city councils have relented to business interest and at his point another large soulless building which makes the owner lots of money is not a big deal.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Mari, a resident of Gemello,
on Dec 30, 2019 at 8:42 am

How will Tied House honor gift cards that were sold with this surprise closure? If anyone has gotten a response please let us know.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by gift cards, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Dec 30, 2019 at 2:34 pm

Call mary, maybe she can help:)


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Great, a resident of Blossom Valley,
on Jan 1, 2020 at 12:20 pm

I see the editors have been at it again, deleting comments that don't agree with the party line. Anything that remotely sounds like criticism are definitionally “objectionable" and therefore removed. Nice community forum, so long as the “community" aligns with my voices pro RV, anti development stance. Good thing no one needs to pay for this; the paywall is absurdly easy to defeat.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Chris, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Jan 2, 2020 at 2:55 pm

my coworkers and i frequented Tied House many times a month for years between 97 and 2010 ... it had very good food, nice beer, and very good service... Since then the food quality seemed to steadily decline, service suffered, and we ate there less and less to the point of only 2 or 3 times per year. IMO their food and service quality is what took it down, the rest of this is noise. (i do appreciate both the historical argument as well as the need for progress!)


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Carolloves, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jan 27, 2020 at 4:31 pm

Carolloves is a registered user.

Mary, you should be proud! You and Livable Mountain View preserved the historic laundromat for all time and made sure that the business occupying it will cease to exist. Don't be so modest and try to give credit to the owners. Mountain View will become so much more livable without this pesky Tied House thanks to your hard work.

Web Link


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by kevinbear, a resident of Jackson Park,
on Mar 17, 2020 at 12:55 am

Wow I really impress your article it is very informative for me such a nice content share you have made some great blog Click here Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by hleatherjackets, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables,
on Mar 20, 2020 at 12:18 pm

hleatherjackets is a registered user.

This is so shady and not surprising at all. M & J is owned by Louis Jemison! He is his own landlord. He's known for years that there was contamination.


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