LISTEN: Scene in San Diego Podcast – The Pandemic Has Shaken Distilleries. This Spot Mixed It Up and Found Ways to Survive

Monica Garske, lead editor of NBC 7's The Scene, and Candice Woo, founding editor of Eater San Diego, talk about San Diego’s food scene in these times of COVID-19

On this episode, we chat with Laura Johnson, owner of You & Yours Distilling Co., a distillery and tasting room in San Diego’s East Village. Although the coronavirus pandemic has really shaken things up for distilleries in the region, You & Yours mixed up its strategy and was lucky enough to find ways to survive.

We also take a look at the return of The Balboa, a popular Bankers Hill burger restaurant that was forced to close last summer due to the strain of the pandemic. It seemed like that was the end for The Balboa but then, it wasn’t.

We also talk about some changes at Petco Park during this pandemic-era Padres baseball season, including where capacity stands and what’s cooking at the concession stands.

Listen to Episode 20 Here:

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The Balboa Is Back

Do you remember last summer when The Balboa – a popular burger spot and bar on Fifth Avenue in Bankers Hill – had to close? At that time, the strain of the pandemic was too much for the little eatery to continue (a story we’ve heard from so many businesses over the past year).

At that time, COVID-related restrictions were tight for local restaurants. The Balboa had no patio, so outdoor dining wasn’t really an option. So, The Balboa closed – and owner Tom Logsdon thought the closure was permanent.

He shifted his attention to his second location of The Balboa, over in Chula Vista, a larger restaurant that had opened just a few months before the pandemic hit our region.

But now, The Balboa on Fifth Avenue is back.

Logsdon was able to work out a deal with his landlord that brought the Bankers Hill burger spot back to life – and doubled its seating. Also different this go-around: the menu and cocktail list.

And locals who love burgers seem pretty excited about it.

Guest Interview: Laura Johnson, Owner of You & Yours Distilling Co. in San Diego

Joining our conversation is Laura Johnson, owner of You & Yours Distilling Co, a distillery and tasting room on G Street in the heart of San Diego’s East Village.

Johnson opened her distillery in 2017, billed as California’s first-ever urban distillery. The University of San Diego graduate’s business also made a splash as a female-led distillery – really shaking things up in an industry historically dominated by men.

A new distillery opens Thursday in San Diego's East Village -- the first urban distillery in California. It's operated by USD graduate Laura Johnson, one of the country's few female lead distillers.

Four years later, You & Yours has really made a name for itself in San Diego’s distilling scene. Now, the tasting room is also a restaurant and in addition to bottling the spirits, You & Yours is canning its cocktails.

You & Yours Distilling Co.
University of San Diego alumna Laura Johnson launched You & Yours Distilling Co. in San Diego in 2017.

Mixing it up like that – and luckily right before the pandemic, too – has helped Johnson’s business survive the past year. She talks about what it’s like to run You & Yours in the pandemic-era – and what’s next for her business.

“We were lucky – I guess you could say – that in May 2019 we put a small kitchen into the distillery, so we’ve been able to operate and go by the restaurant regulations through this entire period as opposed to the distillery regulations, which was a huge help,” Johnson explained.

“It meant that we could be open for takeout for most of the shutdowns during the pandemic,” she added. “This pandemic has produced for You & Yours – as a company – some of our highest highs and lowest lows.”

Founded with hospitality top of mind, Johnson said it feels “really good” to still be able to welcome customers into her distillery for great service – and as COVID-19 restrictions continue to loosen.

You & Yours Distilling Co.
University of San Diego alumna Laura Johnson launched You & Yours Distilling Co. in San Diego in 2017.

Johnson also talks about how You & Yours – like so many local breweries and spirits-makers – has relied on canning its cocktails. Canning has been a pandemic pivot that’s paid off. You can even find the cans at Costco these days (forget the string cheese!). You & Yours has eight types of canned cocktails right now, plus a cold brew in the works.

Johnson talks about how there are more women in distilling these days and how, from her perpective, the industry has changed over the last few years.

Finally, Johnson and her husband, Luke Mahoney, also have another project they’re working on but this one is a mix of both drinks AND links. The pair took over the Loma Club in January 2020 and are in the process of adding an 18-hole mini golf course called Tappers Mini Golf & Cocktails. Johnson shares a little bit about how that’s going, too.

Megan Jane Burgess
Canned cocktails is one way that You & Yours Distilling Co. in San Diego managed to stay afloat during the pandemic.
Laura Johnson, of You & Yours Distilling Co., joins our Scene in San Diego podcast.

What's Cooking at Petco Park?

With San Diego County in the orange tier, capacity limits for Padres games at Petco Park has been able to increase to 33%. Select sections of Petco Park can go up to 67% capacity for fans who can show proof that they’ve been fully vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 test.

The food options are the downtown San Diego ballpark have also changed since Opening Day – there are more vendors open now.

Baseball season began with a few favorites like Buona Forchetta, Hodad’s and Pizza Port in certain parts of the ballpark.

Now, concessions stands are open on all levels and include the Petco Park debut of Grand Ole BBQ, which is open in Section 113 and replaces Phil’s BBQ.

The locally-owned Mexican restaurant, Puesto, has a stand at Petco Park this year, too. Puesto is selling burritos, guacamole and margaritas and beers brewed at its Mission Valley cerveceria.

At the start of the Padres season, all concessions shifted to mobile ordering via the MLB Ballpark app, plus food delivery to your seat. Now, you can walk up to a stand and order, although mobile ordering is still available for in-seat beverage delivery.

Goodbye, Matt

This episode is bittersweet for our podcast, as we have to say goodbye to our producer, Matt Lewis.

Lewis has been with us since the beginning of our podcast – and with NBC 7 San Diego for nearly 10 years. He’s moving out of town, but San Diego will always be home. He talks about why this city is so special to him and, of course, what he likes to eat.

Scene in San Diego hopes to be back with fresh episodes soon.

Thanks for listening, San Diego.


For more content from The Scene, visit this website. For more content from Eater San Diego, click here. And to read our collaboration content with Eater and The Scene every week, click here.

The Scene in San Diego Feat. Eater Podcast is hosted by NBC 7’s Monica Garske and Eater San Diego’s Candice Woo, and is produced by NBC 7’s Matthew Lewis.

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