Gravity Heights reaching for new heights

Gravity Heights owner Arturo Kassel discusses his growing beer concept ahead of unveiling of new Mission Valley location

Craft Q&A header

After more than two years of construction and all the delays and challenges that come with it, restaurateur Arturo Kassel and his team are just over a week away from debuting the second coming of their craft-beer concept, Gravity Heights. Located in Mission Valley near the I-8 and 163 interchange, the venue comes in at 9,000 square feet, roughly half of which is devoted to outdoor dining. While Gravity Heights 2.0 will not include an on-site brewery, it borrows and builds off successful stylistic, operational and culinary components from its five-year-old Sorrento Valley progenitor. With an opening date set for Wednesday, April 17 (reservations now available online), Kassel and his cohorts are hard at work with finishing touches, staff training and countless other preparatory tasks, but we were able to ask about the new project as well as the chances of seeing even more Gravity Heights locations come online in the future.

After many years operating high-profile restaurants, you decided to delve into the brewing industry. What spurred you to get into beer? 
A friend, neighbor and now partner, Ryan Trim, spurred my interest in craft beer. Through him, I met [original AleSmith Brewing owner and founder] Skip Virgilio and the rest is history. I guess looking back on it and given my background, I felt that there was no shortage of great craft beer, however, very few breweries or even brewpubs were putting the same love, effort and resources into the guest experience as they did their beer. Internally, we’ve always thought delicious food, exceptional service and genuine hospitality was a recipe for success. Adding great beer and great ambiance to that equation made sense.

What have been the keys to Gravity Heights’ success? 
As with any business, it comes down to having the right people and providing them the tools and leadership they need to be successful.

Arturo Kassel
Arturo Kassel (Photo: Diana Rose Photography)

You are opening a second location when many brewing companies with multiple locations have been consolidating operations, closing locations or folding. What inspired you to go against the grain and why did you select Mission Valley? 
I think a lot of breweries and brewpubs overextended themselves during the peak of craft-beer mania. We, however, have been very slow and deliberate with our growth, with this being our eighth new restaurant in 18 years. Gravity Heights is not just a product, it’s a place and it’s an experience, and one we’re confident can be a valued-add for multiple communities within the greater San Diego region. Mission Valley is a natural fit for our second Gravity Heights location. While there is no shortage of restaurants in Mission Valley, they are chain restaurants, by and large. We’re excited to be able to come in and add some local flavor and give people a higher quality alternative.

How will the Mission Valley location differ from your original brewpub?
Gravity Heights Mission Valley provided us a bit of a mulligan when it came to the design. We were able to cherry-pick the elements from the first project that we still love today and improve or change the elements we, in hindsight, wish we had done differently. We won’t give too much away, but it’s definitely got a really cool almost Tulum vibe. Part of the magic of the Sorrento Valley space is the abundance of outdoor space. That’s hard to find, especially in an urban environment, but we’re thrilled to have carved out a massive beer garden smack dab in the middle of Mission Valley. This will further set it apart from neighboring restaurants.

Gravity Heights Menu Items
Photo: Diana Rose Photography

What is your best-case scenario with Mission Valley and how will it bolster the business overall? 
Our ambition is to grow Gravity Heights into a regional brewpub and brand. A second location is a big step towards that goal. If we execute the way we know how and the location is a success, it’ll open up the door for additional locations. In the near-term though, the additional beer production will help improve our overall beer-production costs. Production will continue to take place in the Sorrento Valley location. We believe we have enough capacity to produce beer for a third and possibly a fourth location out of the existing brewing facility.

What would need to happen for you to open even more locations and would you consider any beyond San Diego?
We have a lot riding on the second location. If we don’t get it right, there is no third, fourth, etc., so our focus right now is on the two we have. As for a broader growth path, that’ll hopefully reveal itself over time, but we don’t ever see ourselves opening any restaurant outside of Southern California or possibly even San Diego County. We’re very hands-on operators, so being able to spend time at our properties and developing relationships with our team is very much a part of who we are.

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