The City of Morro Bay doesn’t want to let a waterfront lease site sit empty for too long, but a planned microbrewery’s move-in date has been pushed back to late spring.

Last August, the City and Three Stacks & A Rock Brewing Co., currently located on North Main Street in Manfredo Square, inked a deal for a temporary lease to have the brewery occupy the former Morro Bay Aquarium building at Embarcadero and Marina Street.

The initial deal included monthly rent of $1,916 or some $23,000 a year and could be renewed annually until a hoped-for project to tear down that building and build a new, state-of-the-art aquarium, which is being pursued by the Central Coast Aquarium of Avila Beach, is ready.

The City believes that aquarium project, now in the process of drafting designs and starting on a capital campaign, could be three years or more out from breaking ground.

The original deal was to have the brewery do extensive remodeling and repairs spending, “a minimum documented amount of $120,000,” according to the terms of the lease, to install their equipment and make the place usable as a pub. 

The Harbor Department said the City would “incur an estimated $7,000-$10,000 in necessary building improvement costs to get the building suitable for occupancy.”

But the building has proved to be anything but easy to remodel. Harbor Director Eric Endersby said engineers working on designing the improvements ran into issues right away. The first was whether a cinder block interior wall separating the former gift shop from the aquarium was a load-bearing wall.

Finding no easy answer, the City embarked a search of City records looking for plans and permits, which they couldn’t find. However, in a small workshop at the aquarium, they found a cache of documents, plans and permits, literally a treasure trove of information on that building, as well as historical photos and more.

Mostly, there was just useless stuff left behind, Endersby explained. But there were also a lot of documents, including all the inspections and reports the old aquarium filed with federal regulators. “Literally, I don’t think Dean [Tyler] ever threw away anything,” Endersby said.

That information satisfied the engineers and cleared the way to move forward. But when a demolition company was brought in to look at the job, it was discovered that the building has asbestos floor tiles and lead paint. Endersby said the subsequent inspections found “nothing major,” but, “ate up another month.”

With the Dec. 1 deadline shot, the Council gave Endersby permission to push back the target dates for initiation of rent payments, to next May 31.

He wasn’t sure if the delays also mean the City’s estimated costs to bring the building up to code was shot as well. That’s something they are looking at now, he said.

Meanwhile, the City Council also approved a “Pilot Building Lease Agreement” with The Paddleboard Company (TPC) to allow the use of space at the end of Marina Street adjacent to the aquarium site so that the business can continue.

TPC’s proprietors, Ken and Sandi Twist, had a retail and rental shop up the street at 595 Embarcadero, launching rented kayaks from a dock at that location. They also gave lessons and guided tours of the bay. 

They closed the store in August but still have a portable, paddleboard-rental business run off a trailer. They most often set up at the Tidelands Park side-tie dock, Endersby said. 

Endersby explained, “Staff are currently working on a license agreement program to enable, among other things, operators such as TPC to operate strictly on a mobile basis with no retail or rental shop presence. Currently, such a program does not exist.”

He asked the Council to let the Twists, “establish their mobile operation in the form of a rudimentary building lease on a pilot basis, with a storage presence in the rear of the actual site and possibly a fixed video information screen and some marketing materials nearby on the building.”

He said that he is currently working on an appropriate rent charge for what amounts to use of a parking space, but more importantly, to help the business survive and to keep them as a presence on the waterfront.