Editor’s Note: This is a collaboration between digital journalist Joseph Pimentel and multimedia journalist Jada Montemarano. To watch the video report, click the play icon above.
The new Leisuretown development in Anaheim is already living up to its name.
Once visitors enter Modern Times Beer's 33,000 square foot part brewery and part restaurant in downtown Anaheim, they will see a mid-century home and an outdoor courtyard with tables and seating. There is a curated botanical garden, redesigned and repurposed old shipping containers, and an outdoor pool surrounded by lounge chairs, cabanas, and dining tables below black and white striped umbrellas.
It looks more like a Palm Springs getaway than a traditional neighborhood bar.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues limiting indoor eating options, Leisuretown seems like a perfect place for people to lounge and drink beer in a fitting outdoor setting.
The brewery opened in August.
“These breweries are serving as the new community center in our culture,” said LAB Holdings President Shaheen Sadeghi.
Sadeghi owns the land and helped design it.
“It’s bringing families and neighbors together to meet, talk and have a bonfire. We didn’t want another tasting room. This is for the next generation. We wanted a club atmosphere," said Sadeghi.
The new brewery highlights Sadeghi’s ability to transform the mundane into an innovative lively retail and restaurant scene and part of the city’s goal of cementing itself as a “brew city” that rivals well-known craft beer cities such as Portland, Denver, and San Diego.
In 2014, as part of a greater effort to attract more breweries and the spirit industry, former Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait spearheaded an initiative to drive more brewery owners to the city. Tait got rid of some of the lengthy and costly red-tape hurdles of starting a brewery.
Since the passage of that initiative, the city now has 20 craft breweries, the most in Orange County, city officials said.
The latest is Sadeghi’s Leisuretown that sits a block away from another one of his creations, the Anaheim Packing District, and a five-minute drive from Disneyland and the city’s Resort District.
Sadeghi is the brain behind the LAB Anti-Mall, a counter-culture youth-oriented shopping center in Costa Mesa. He made downtown Anaheim’s City Centre into a lively retail area and transformed a 100-year old abandoned and former orange and fruit-packing house into a thriving and innovative food hall in the Packing District.
In partnership with Studio One Eleven, Sadeghi and his team combined three separate parcels, a 1911 built three-story Craftsman-style house, a former neighborhood grocery store, and an auto yard.
The home was remodeled and serves as a gathering and event space for food and cocktails. The barrel-vaulted shaped grocery store has been restored and converted into Modern Times’ brewery and bar.
There is an outdoor central courtyard with specially curated plants and lush gardens. Six repurposed shipping containers are dotted throughout the premises and serve as hangout spots with tables and misters. The former auto shop yard was converted as the central kitchen. There is a gift shop that sells Modern Times’ beer and other gifts.
And then there’s the pool, a 45-foot-long, four-foot deep pool stretches along the side of the brewery.
“It’s just cool,” Studio One Eleven Senior Principal Michael Bohn said. “This is like a resort, almost like you’re on vacation. We wanted to bring out the Southern California lifestyle. This is a neighborhood hangout, a place where people can come together.”
Modern Times Spokesman Dan Reed said the moment they saw the place, they were in.
“Our initial excitement about the Anaheim spot was and still is manifold,” Reed said. “We love the downtown Anaheim area; we’re huge fans of our project partners, The Lab, and their ability to make ambitious projects into gorgeous realities; and we absolutely cannot resist a historic craftsman house. And I think once the word ‘pool’ was uttered aloud, we were irrevocably committed.”
For Sadeghi, he is most proud of renovating and repurposing the old buildings on the site, that maybe any other developer would have torn down.
“There’s always history with these buildings,” Sadeghi said. “If you tear it down, you wipe out the soul of the city or area. This part of our history and as time goes by, there’s a greater appreciation for them.”
Sadeghi began development on this project years before the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike the Packing District, which is mostly an indoor food hall, he wanted Leisuretown to bring out one of Southern California's greatest assets, the weather. He envisioned people hanging outside, coming together and enjoying themselves. Ironically, when the pandemic came, state orders limiting indoor dining has created a demand for outdoor dining.
“It’s the new world order,” he said. “The biggest reason we live in California is because of the weather. My career has always been about challenging the current playbook. Now, the current playbook is obsolete. I think dining outdoors is a positive shift."
He said with Leisuretown, "We wanted more than just a beer garden. We wanted to take you to the next level."