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Adult Beverages: Surf City Still Works knows in order to build, sometimes you get to first destroy

Surf City Still Works
A bartender pours custom cocktails at Surf City Still Works in Huntington Beach. The craft distillery plans to open a much larger new facility early next year.
(Courtesy of Surf City Still Works)

Josh Kornoff had just jackhammered a concrete curb to smithereens, and he looked like a happy man.

“I didn’t go to construction school, but I am good at breaking things,” said Kornoff, who used to be a pyrotechnics expert in the film industry before he became co-owner of the Surf City Still Works in Huntington Beach with his wife, Elena.

“Blowing stuff up — that was what my career was in Hollywood,” he said. “Cars and buildings and other things.”

The curb in the lane behind Still Works was pulverized for a reason. The craft distillery recently celebrated its first anniversary with some momentous news: it’s moving into a 25,000-square-foot building adjacent to its current 1,300-square-foot digs on Heil Avenue.

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Surf City will continue to offer its current lineup of gin, vodka and other spirits, but the new facility will include a restaurant and a brewery.

A soft opening is slated for January.

The move became necessary because of their success, Kornoff said. Their accounts include Disneyland, Costco, Albertsons, Trader Joe’s and BevMo.

“We are now maxed out on production,” he said.

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The expansion will dramatically increase Surf City’s production from 3,000 cases a year to more than 40,000, making it one of Southern California’s largest distilleries.

Surf City Still Works
When Surf City Still Works expands in 2020, it will be one of Southern California's largest craft distilleries.
(Courtesy of Surf City Still Works)

The restaurant concept is in its early stages, but Kornoff knows he wants tapas and a seasonal menu that constantly changes.

The brewery idea was a natural addition, Kornoff said, because it’s easy for distilleries to produce beer: “It’s kind of a natural part of the larger process, so why not?”

As Kornoff surveys his future home, a nondescript, midcentury industrial building that once housed an indoor skate park, he admits that he has many challenges to face between busting up the curb and opening day early next year.

“Where is the grease trap going to go? How many fermenting tanks am I going to have?” he said. “That’s going to be fun. I really enjoy the building part. I’m particularly good at it. I feel that’s where my strength is — on the technical side of things.”

One advantage of owning a restaurant, Kornoff pointed out, is that it will ease restrictions on the sale of spirits. Distilleries are allowed to sell only 1.5 ounces per customer daily.

“It’s nice to serve cocktails,” he said. “You can come and try a flight, pick the spirit you like most and have a cocktail that uses it. And you can eat a little something with it. Drinks and food go well together and, you know, we don’t intend to be just a bar.”

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Kornoff already has his bartender picked out: Allys Escobar, who has been with them from the very beginning.

“I don’t want to call her a mixologist, but she’s very good,” he said. “She’s been with us a year now. She was here at the very beginning. She has really developed as a bartender; she wasn’t afraid to learn the technical side of things and experiment. And we’ve really [given her] the freedom to do that.”

In the meantime, Kornoff has some more destruction to do.

He laughed when asked to name his career highlights in Hollywood.

“Everyone always asks that,” he said. “Let’s see … the Bourne series. I did ‘Pearl Harbor,’ ‘Spider-Man,’ videos for Madonna, Metallica, Aerosmith. Just thousands of shows.”

He held up his hands.

“I still have all my fingers,” he said. “And I never blew anyone up.”

IF YOU GO

What: Surf City Still Works

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Where: 7242 Heil Ave., Huntington Beach

When: 4 to 8 p.m. Fridays; 1 to 8 p.m. Saturdays. Available for private events Sundays to Thursdays.

Information: (714) 253-7606; surfcitystillworks.com

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