Ruhstaller Brewing owner J-E Paino debated posting his incendiary letter for two months. On Thursday, he finally did so.
In a letter posted outside Ruhstaller’s downtown Sacramento taproom — and on its social media pages — Paino railed against the homelessness crisis, the condition of the city core and decisions made by elected officials, saying his business might soon have to close.
“I would love to say that we’re going to stand with Sacramento ... and stand for Sacramento ... somebody’s got to do it, right?” Paino’s letter read. “But in 10 years downtown, we’ve only made money for 18 months ... and since March 2020 we have only covered the cost of operating this taproom a handful of months.
“I don’t know how much longer we can hang in there.”
Ruhstaller’s female taproom manager was recently harassed and eventually assaulted by someone despite calling the Sacramento Police Department three times in one evening, Paino wrote in his letter. The assailant “never bought any beer, but wanted to sample everything and use our facilities,” he wrote.
Sacramento County’s homeless population shot up 67% from 2020 to 2022, when 9,278 people were included in the biannual Point in Time report. Paino’s letter criticized Mayor Darrell Steinberg directly for too many programs aimed at homeless individuals, which he said brought others to Sacramento.
“It sure looks like all Mayor Steinberg could talk about the last couple of years was how much we were going to help those less fortunate,” Paino’s letter read. “It turned out that it wasn’t just folks in Sacramento that heard his offer(;) it was folks in Cincinnati, Boise, Muncie and, once it got cold, Minneapolis and Chicago.”
Steinberg’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment Friday, when many public offices were closed in observance of Veterans Day.
Ruhstaller was the first business to open on the ground floor of The Hardin, a mixed-use building spanning the entire block of 7th and K streets near Downtown Commons. The basement taproom debuted in August 2018, a year-and-a-half after Ruhstaller’s original downtown bar closed across from Cesar Chavez Plaza.
Travelers to and from the Bay Area know Ruhstaller for its hop vines growing along Interstate 80 in Dixon, where the farm brewery is based. It’s the only brewery in the region to grow its own hops on-site.
Ruhstaller isn’t the first restaurant or bar in Sacramento’s urban core to speak out about the homeless population’s effect on business. The owner of fellow craft brewery New Helvetia said in 2019 that homeless people on Broadway had scared off potential customers, and burger joint Jim-Denny’s recent revival has been cashless as owner N’Gina Guyton tries to dissuade petty theft.
New Helvetia faced criticism after owner Dave Gull’s 2019 comments, and Ruhstaller has similarly seen blowback in its Instagram comments and on a Reddit post. Yet Paino said in a phone interview Friday that he hadn’t been paying attention to the public response.
“Looking at a Twitter feed or Instagram comments wasn’t part of the process. Selling more beer wasn’t part of the process,” Paino said. “I have 25-plus partners that depend on what we do, and I love Sacramento, and it’s hard to see what we let (happen).
Ruhstaller was sued by its landlord, 700 Commercial Block LP, in February 2022 for allegedly failing to pay rent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The two sides reached a settlement in April 2022 that allowed Ruhstaller to continue operating.
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