May 30, 2024
Camino had been among the better-known and most popular of San Jose's craft brew operations before announcing its closure.

Less than a week after its sixth anniversary celebration, Camino Brewing Company told its social media followers Thursday that it had decided to close the doors of its South First Street brewery on the edge of downtown. There’s no big farewell bash planned; the taproom and beer garden already had been closed the previous few days for electrical repairs.

Camino had been among the better-known and most popular of San Jose’s craft brew operations, and fans mourned the loss of its laid-back atmosphere, not to mention its Fruit Cup IPA and Cafe Con Leche coffee milk stout. The post about the closing pointed to the usual suspects: inflation and a slow pandemic recovery, echoing what S27 — another San Jose craft brewer — said when it ended operations last year. Camino also said that a major funding plan that had been in the works for a year had fallen through.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 17: The front entrance at the Camino Brewing Co. in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2022. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

Taken by itself, Camino’s closing is unfortunate, and it shouldn’t be a harbinger of downtown doom. After all, in the past few months, Rollati Ristorante opened across from City Hall, Urban Putt added a fun, new dimension to Urban Catalyst’s new Paseo building and Still OG and Alter Ego have made the historic district a little cooler already. For months, downtown boosters have proudly talked about statistics showing that overall activity is at about pre-pandemic levels, seemingly avoiding the “doom loop” of other downtowns.

But most of that action is happening after dark; the office-return statistics are still hovering around 40 percent. And there’s a lot of whispering about other venues around downtown San Jose that may be in serious trouble. Even the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles in the SoFA district has announced an emergency campaign to raise $300,000 (and has brought in about a third of that so far).

Fortunately, the next big announcement is the grand opening of Elyse, which has relocated from the Pavilion Shops to the corner of South First and San Fernando streets. But the next one could be another unexpected closing of a downtown gem.

If there’s a lesson, maybe it’s that we should all be visiting the places we like and haven’t been to for a while. These restaurants, museums and theaters are all dying to have people come back — and some may be really gone before long if they don’t.

TRIPPIN’ WITH PEARL JAM: “Dark Matter,” the new album from Pearl Jam, is being released April 19 — but fans can get a memorable early first-listen of the music at a movie theater of all places. “Dark Matter in Theaters” is a one-night only experience April 16, and that’s a happy coincidence for Ray Villarruz, the supervisor at Pruneyard Cinemas’ Cedar Room bar in Campbell. Villarruz has a long association with the band and has been part of opening acts for some of their shows, so he’s going to lend a hand introducing the screenings.

Audiences will get to “experience” the band’s new album in two ways: First, it’ll be played straight through in the darkened theater — audio only; after that, it’ll be played again but this time with mesmerizing visuals. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but it reminds me of the old iTunes “visualizer.” Pruneyard has two showings planned — 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. — and is offering two specialty cocktails: The Dark Matter and Kille, Hit the Lights, but I’m betting a chunk of the crowd may show up a little buzzed to begin with.

Go to www.pruneyardcinemas.com for ticket information.

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Beatriz Chaidez is the new chancellor for the San Jose Evergreen Community College District after the district’s board of trustees unanimously selected her April 9. She had been serving as interim chancellor since July 2023 and has been with the district since 2019, previously holding the position of vice chancellor of human resources.

And Elisabeth Ward will be stepping down May 1 after seven years as executive director of the Los Altos History Museum. She’s moving back to Mission Viejo in Orange County where she grew up.

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“I hope to take some of what I have learned here about community building and apply it to my hometown, an area that is not as tightknit as Los Altos,” Ward wrote in a farewell note to supporters. “Membership in organizations like the Los Altos History Museum is part of the fabric that makes a community strong, and I hope you continue to prioritize learning from and supporting one another in the years ahead.”

ARTISTIC ADDITION: Nominations are now being accepted for the Cornerstone of the Arts awards, presented by the city of San Jose’s Office of Cultural Affairs and the city’s Arts Commission. The awards started in 2013 as a way to honor people who had a long-standing impact on the arts like Opera San Jose founder Irene Dalis, San Jose Stage founders Cathleen and Randall King, former Mayor Susan Hammer and then-SV Creates CEO Connie Martinez.

A few years later, awards were added to recognize organizations and events that had a creative impact on the area or provided business or nonprofit support.

Now, the program’s categories have been tweaked again with a new award for a Luminary Artist, which “recognizes an established, professional artist who has a substantial body of work that reflects excellence and contributions to San Jose’s cultural vitality.” I can think of several people who qualify, and I’m sure you can, too. Nominations for all the categories are due by 5 p.m. May 3, and the winners will be honored Oct. 11 at the Hammer Theatre Center.

Go to www.sanjoseculture.org and click on “Cornerstone of the Arts” for more details.

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