Brewery to open second location with restaurant, patio, river views

Ryan Wattenbarger

It took the owners of Kennewick’s Moonshot Brewing almost a year, but they’ve found a spot for their second location.

Ryan Wattenbarger and his staff have been busy tearing up the floor and the kitchen of a former Thai restaurant overlooking Howard Amon Park in Richland.

The new location at 94 Lee Blvd. will be called Moonshot Brewing Pub at the Park.

“We’ve been looking for another place for about 10 months, and we’d kind of given up on it,” Wattenbarger said.

Baan Khun Ya Thai restaurant was the former occupant.

It took 18 months for Wattenbarger and his wife, Hilary Bird, to find the first brewery’s first location at 8804 W. Victoria Ave., Suite 140, just off Gage Boulevard.

Sometimes, though, you need a little luck.

“The guy who picks up my spent grain bought this building (in Richland),” Wattenbarger said.

The 5,000-square-foot building off George Washington Way was built in 1950, according to Benton County property records.

A restaurant of their own

Wattenbarger and Bird loved the space for its long-planned second location.

“We had planned to go in with another local restaurant,” Wattenbarger said.

But he found out that state law required different businesses to keep separate spaces.

“There is no way to separate the two,” Wattenbarger said. “And we were at the point we had put down earnest money when we found that out.”

So, Moonshot will go it alone with a restaurant of its own.

As the former head brewer at Snipes Mountain Brewery and Restaurant in Sunnyside, Wattenbarger has experience in the restaurant business.

“Erica Vieyra is my tap room manager (in Kennewick),” he said. “She has been working on a food truck concept (mac and cheese). Instead, she’ll manage this restaurant. We’ll have standard pub fare. We’re learning things on the fly. But I’ve got a good team.”

Wattenbarger expects the capacity for seating inside the restaurant to be 28 people, with the patio overlooking the park and Columbia River seating another 60 people.

The chance to build a second location made good business sense for Wattenbarger and his business partners.

“For us, we can produce a lot more beer than we can sell at (the Kennewick store),” he said, explaining that selling beer by the pint helps the bottom line more than selling kegs.

The beer still will be made at the Kennewick brew pub.

“Our sales are where we thought they’d be,” he said. “But the costs of everything have gone up.”

A new location should eventually help offset those costs with more sales.

Wattenbarger expects the Richland pub to create four to five new jobs. The Kennewick pub employs four people, in addition to the eight owners.

While the physical labor of remodeling the kitchen and putting in a new walk-in is intensive, Wattenbarger said he still keeps to his regular beer-making schedule.

“We’re holding it together,” he said. “It’s hard, though. We’re still shooting for December for an opening of this place. The earlier the better.”

Award-winning beer

 Wattenbarger and Bird have had a great run of success since opening the Kennewick pub in June 2019.

In mid-October, two of Moonshot’s brews — Kolsch and Virgo — were honored by Sip Magazine in its Best of the Northwest annual awards.

There is no kitchen at the Kennewick pub, but customers can bring in food that they’ve purchased elsewhere. Food trucks regularly visit. Check the Moonshot website for the schedule.

The 3,240-square-foot taproom comfortably seats 100 people in Kennewick.

Wattenbarger, who grew up near Yakima Valley hops fields, started his career working in the wine industry.

But eventually he moved into beer, becoming the assistant brewer at Snipes Mountain Brewery & Restaurant in Sunnyside. Within six months, he was the head brewmaster.

In 2019, he broke away from Snipes to craft his own beer.

The key goal for Wattenbarger was being able to make smaller batches of beer to try. If they were successful, he could make more.

It allowed him to be creative.

Everything at Snipes Mountain was made in large batches and made it hard for him to experiment because if they weren’t good, he’d still have to sell them.

Using a 3.5-barrel Stout system at Moonshot allows him to experiment.

“It makes four to six kegs,” Wattenbarger said. “If they work out, I can make it again.”

That’s what he’s been doing since Moonshot opened.

Almost everything, he said, comes from this region.

“We use 95% Washington-grown hops,” Wattenbarger said.

Moonshot also has been known as a child-friendly, dog-friendly venue.

“I think we strive to make sure everybody is welcome in this taproom,” he said. “That includes children and dogs.”

Dogs are welcome on leashes, and Moonshot sells dog biscuits made locally at Ethos Bakery.

Wattenbarger and Bird are big soccer fans, and they’ve strived to make Moonshot the go-to place to watch soccer games.

“We’re huge soccer fans,” he said. “We wanted this place to fill our needs, where people can support the Seattle Sounders. We wanted a place that will be family friendly.”

Visitors can expect the same at the new Richland pub.

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