Craft brewer disputes claim of increased crime in Ocean Beach due to craft beer industry

Posted at 6:17 PM, Jul 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-27 21:17:14-04

A local craft brewer is responding to claims that the craft beer industry is to blame for an increase in crime in Ocean Beach.

Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach is full of bars famous for partying, but some local craft breweries and tasting rooms that have recently moved in say they aren't part of it.

"We don't have people coming in here looking for the cheapest shot," said Matt Johnson, who runs Helm's Brewing Company's tasting room on Newport Avenue.

However, a story recently published in the San Diego Reader painted a very different picture. It quoted San Diego police Lt. William Carter as saying "alcohol-related crime in Ocean Beach is up 400 percent" in the last year. It places much of the blame on the area's eight new tasting rooms and breweries.

"It just caught us by surprise," Johnson said, noting the brewer is family friendly, and sells sodas and chips. "It's amazing, on a Saturday afternoon, especially here by the beach, how many strollers and dogs are in our tasting room; it just really takes over."

Carter told 10News by phone that crime is not up 400 percent in Ocean Beach, and that statistics for alcohol-related crimes don't specify where the drinks came from. He said he was simply going over how police decide whether to recommend new alcohol licenses at a recent community meeting.

"If it was the case, we'd want to know and do something about it," Johnson said.

Mercy Baron, who wrote the article for San Diego Reader, said she misunderstood Collins' comments and would be issuing a clarification to the story.

Johnson said he's now speaking out so people aren't afraid to come to Ocean Beach and try his craft beer -- such as Bluechuck Blueberry or Hella Bock.

"People are sipping on their beers and they want to see their flavor," he said. "We're not doing shots; we're not doing chugging beer contests or anything like that."