Ambitions were lofty when Modern Times Beer opened its Leisuretown location in Anaheim in September 2020, even if the timing wasn’t ideal. At 33,000 square feet, Leisuretown was billed as a huge play place for Orange County craft beer drinkers, with different areas to drink, dine, or just hang out in poolside cabanas, but two years later the property closed with little fanfare. Now two hospitality veterans in Brad Kominek (a well-respected brewer) and Isaias Hernandez, of the growing chain Smoke and Fire, have taken over the operation.
Owned by Orange County “anti-mall” mogul Shaheen Sadeghi, the sprawling Leisuretown development — initially built in conjunction with Modern Times — actually encompasses three distinct spaces. There’s a 1911-era Craftsman-style home, a former grocery store-turned-brewery, and an old auto yard that has been overhauled to include a lush Palm Springs-style courtyard, complete with cabanas and a 45-foot-long pool. The space had all of the hallmarks of a successful indoor-outdoor operation, but a second pandemic wave, mandated indoor dining restrictions, and credible allegations of toxic workplace environment, discrimination, and sexual misconduct at Modern Times resulting in the resignation of founder and CEO Jacob McKean ensured that Leisuretown would never reach its full potential.
With partners Hernandez and Kominek now in charge, the new venture is moving in a different direction. Hernandez is promising barbecue and other meaty snacks (a departure from Modern Times’ meager vegan menu) as an extension of his growing restaurant chain Craft by Smoke and Fire, but with more of a steakhouse feel. The upcoming restaurant, currently called the Craftsman, will lean more high-end and will use both floors (and possibly even the cellar) of the original home. There will be cocktails where the coffee machine once sat, and Kominek’s beers brewed on-site.
“The Craftsman is going to be a menu with 100 percent open-fire cooking,” says Hernandez. To accomplish that goal, the grilling and smoking at the Craftsman will be done on a new Fatstack Smoker. “This is like being given the keys to a Ferrari after years of driving a Civic,” says Hernandez.
Kominek, who has spent years in Southern California craft beer, including stints as the head brewer at Noble Ale Works in Anaheim and at Green Cheek Beer Company, will be handling the brewing. With all of the old Modern Times brewing equipment still inside the facility, Kominek has been able to get up and running quickly. He hopes that, come this spring, there should be a dozen or more beers ready under the name Villains Brewery, an inside joke from Kominek’s time at Noble Ale Works when that brand was the formidable new kid on the craft beer block. Hernandez and Kominek are also working on a beer pairing menu to join the restaurant and the brewery more closely.
The outside courtyard area will be dubbed the Villains Lair. Shipping containers will ring the perimeter, filled with fast-casual restaurant setups for easy grab-and-go dining. Smoke and Fire will have one space, as will One Dope Pizza, and another will act as a rotating incubator kitchen for pop-ups and upstart brands. Hernandez plans on working with the culinary programs at the local community colleges in Cypress and Cerritos to help students hone their entrepreneurial skills at the facility, buoyed further by multiple Mill Scale open-air grills that really give off the sense of a big backyard barbecue.
“It’s going to be like the [family-focused backyard] scene in the Fast & the Furious,” jokes Hernandez, “except I drive a Fiat and we’re all overweight.”
While the plans to overhaul the 33,000-square-foot space in just six months are certainly ambitious, Hernandez and Kominek say that they wouldn’t want any other kind of challenge. They know who they are, and are full-steam ahead on an opening (hopefully) in April of this year. “We’ve sat down and decided what’s important to us, and we won’t deviate from it,” says Hernandez, adding that “it’s ultimately up to the guest” to decide whether or not that vision works for Orange County.
Update February 11, 2023: The article was updated to clarify that the allegations of toxic workplace environment, discrimination, and sexual misconduct at Modern Times took place while founder Jacob McKean was CEO. McKean announced he was stepping down shortly after allegations came to light, but McKean was never directly accused of misconduct.