Situated in Carson, California is the Phantom Carriage Brewery which features as this month’s Hospitality Around the World. In true Halloween spirit we chose this venue as the brewery and taproom pays a thematic homage to classic Horror Cinema.
What made you choose your location and how does this enable you to stand out?
Choosing the best location for a small craft brewery with a significant Taproom/Restaurant component is a conflicted compromise at best. You have a bright noisy brewing (manufacturing) operation that needs high ceilings, lots of space, specialized utilities, freight/shipping access and local foot traffic and curb appeal are not an issue. The large adjoining Taproom/Restaurant operation has totally different and essentially opposite needs, i.e, quiet intimate feel, minimal utilities, modest shipping/receiving and critical need for nearby access to large numbers of people, and ideally lots of local foot traffic. In addition, Brewing and Taproom/Restaurant locations are generally highly regulated businesses, so many locations that are attractive are not allowed because of proximity to schools, churches, and residential neighbourhoods. So it took a long time to find a spot we felt was a good compromise between all these competing requirements. The unusual strategy for a brewpub is to favour the needs of the taproom/restaurant. With very limited options to choose from, we decided to prioritize the needs of the brewing operation, but also be sure we were easily freeway accessible to the South Bay/LA area. Our plan was to offset the lack of access to local foot traffic by designing a very unique taproom/restaurant, which would be interesting and enjoyable enough to become a local destination. The City of Carson welcomed us, and our Phantom Carriage Brewery concept, and has been nothing but supportive throughout our tenure here! The brewery, taproom and restaurant currently occupies an industrial building located between the 405, 110, and 91 freeways in Carson CA.The exterior is a very non-descript concrete block but when you step through the door, your world changes…and that’s our goal!
Talk us through your décor – we absolutely love it!
Phantom Carriage is both a physical place, (Craft Brewery, Taproom and Eatery), and the title of an iconic 1921 Swedish Horror Film…that is not a coincidence! Phantom Carriage Brewery is a thematic homage to classic Horror Cinema. Enter and transition from sunlight to darkness …as your eyes adjust you see, black chalkboard walls cloaked in original horror film inspired art by various staff and local artists, depicting the likes of Vincent Price, Bela Lugosi, and Boris Karloff. Hundreds of working beer filled oak wine barrels line the dimly lit, voluminous main taproom. Various themed private rooms branch from the main taproom and cellar, including a Phantom Theatre, a speakeasy style screening room, (where classic features screen along with special releases), and a “Shining” themed room both with rich leather lounges, couches and draped heavy red velvet curtains, all evoking a slightly sophisticated, comfortable, and relaxed atmosphere. Strategically arrayed throughout our space we have animatronic installations and effects, that may come alive periodically when least expected. Our goal is to provide a dramatic transition from the stress and challenges our guests bring in the front door and immerse them in an atmosphere entirely conducive to memorable times shared with friends and family enjoying warm hospitality, great beer, and delicious food!
What helped you become a successful hospitality venue?
Our success is a direct reflection of the support of our local Carson, and larger Los Angeles and South Bay support. We launched as a small batch beer endeavour in 2015 focused exclusively on Belgian barrel aged wild and farmhouse beers. At each turn in our evolution, we’ve focused on curating a unique and different experience, but one that is approachable and comfortable and entertaining and that has resonated with our clientele. We constantly change our tap list…new types of beers, variations on themes, changing only one ingredient to explore what its impact on flavour is…we provide the opportunity to adventure, to explore and try something new, each time you visit.
We feature movie Thriller nights in our Theatre weekly, and though we attract customers of all ages and types, I think one of our biggest demographics is “Date Night” couples and groups of all ages. There are so many things to see and explore that you don’t have to worry about being occupied or entertained, especially if it’s a first date, or if you prefer, you can find a dark quiet place to relax and spend time together. Offering options and finding the right balance of “adventure and excitement” to “familiarity and comfort” has been an important component of our evolution and success!
Then Covid Appeared! As an onsite immersive venue, with no outdoor seating, To-Go business or other off-premise sales channels, we were completely shut down, by indoor drinking and dining restrictions. Like so many, we’ve had to pivot our business model dramatically and repeatedly to try to cope with the unforeseeable loss of close to 80% of our revenue for nearly a year and a half. And even as we’ve progressively attempt to re-open, carrying a year and a half of (still accumulating) debt, and fighting industry headwinds including lack of available employees, skyrocketing material costs, supply chain disruptions, as well as continuing local concerns with dining out and public safety, the path ahead is anything but clear relative to those forces.
What inspiration do you believe other bars around the world can take from you venue?
Sound business fundamentals are certainly a requisite for success, but it’s immensely helpful to bring passion and creativity to your business. And that’s what we try to do at Phantom Carriage Brewery, Taproom, and Eatery…our goal is to create businesses that resonate with and express our passions in life. And the most important of those passions for us is creating unforgettably enjoyable experiences with friends and family around great food, drink and delightfully immersive environments!