Biz Buzz: Downtown Brew Co. changes hands

Hamish Marshall of WestPac Investments is stepping into ownership of Downtown Brewing Co., a pub on Garden Street in San Luis Obispo in a building slated to be part of the developer’s Garden Street hotel project.

The SLO Brewery building was the first acquisition by WestPac Investments on Garden Street in 2005. WestPac has since bought all the buildings along the northwest corner of Garden and Marsh streets to develop them into offices, condos, retail space and a hotel.

Mike and Becky Hoffman sold the pub business, formerly known as SLO Brew, to Darren Smith and Mark Woolpert of Compass Health, one of the county’s largest private employers, along with Todd and Korie Newman five years ago.

Compass Health, founded by Woolpert, owns six skilled-nursing homes and two assisted-living facilities for 650 senior citizens in San Luis Obispo County. It started diversifying into the restaurant and pub business about six years ago.

Smith, who is Compass Health’s chief operating officer, says his company had only intended to stay with the business for two years until Marshall turned the building into part of his hotel project, but the project was then delayed because of the recession.

Compass Health has lost its enthusiasm for the bar on Garden Street over the past few years because its business has dropped by about 40 percent, which Smith also blames on the downturn in the economy.

A lawsuit Downtown Brew is fighting in court also did not help, he said. A customer was punched in a fight on the street outside the club, fell and hit his head, which has caused permanent brain damage, according to court records.

The man is suing the pub and Sierra Vista Medical Center, which treated him, for about $1 million, Smith said.

Compass Health will continue to own Downtown Brew Co. in Paso Robles, Custom House and Mr. Rick’s in Avila Beach, and Ventana Grill in Pismo Beach. It will also continue to manage Level 4 in Paso Robles, which they have offered to buy and has been in escrow for almost a year, Smith said.

The Newmans and Marshall could not be reached for comment.

— Melanie Cleveland

Gennaro’s takes old Benvenuti location

Gennaro’s Grill and Garden, a new restaurant specializing in Mediterranean food with some Cuban offerings, is now open at 450 Marsh St. in San Luis Obispo.

The restaurant is co-owned by Gennaro Rosato, 64, originally from Italy, and Raul Cano, also in his 60s, and originally from Cuba.

Rosato owns the building and previously operated the Italian restaurant Benvenuti in the same location until 2005. Since then, the site has been leased to now-failed restaurants Calago and Profile.

Rosato emerged from retirement to open Gennaro’s with Cano. Dinner entrees range from $15 to $30.

— Julia Hickey

SLO now has three farmers markets

A certified farmers market is now open Sundays in the Kennedy Club Fitness parking lot off Tank Farm Road.

Moez Ben, owner of Baba Foods, launched the new market in late March with 12 vendors. The market has grown to 25 vendors selling local produce, flowers and baked goods, according to Nick Ryan, the market’s manager.

The family-oriented market is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and features a bounce house, live entertainment and food tastings. There will be free face-painting for kids July 11.

— AnnMarie Cornejo

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Neurologist David S. Filippi has consolidated his San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria offices and is now practicing full-time at the new Pismo Beach Medical Center at 2 James Way.

Filippi, who moved to the Central Coast in 2008, has trained at UCSF, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center and USC Medical School.

— Julia Hickey