Moskowite Corners: A Landmark in Lake Berryessa History Gets A New Owner - Again

by Peter Kilkus

The Corners was still a happening place when I first bought my mobile home at Steele Park Resort in 1997. Although our fantastic restaurant and bar at Steele Park, the Boathouse, was our gathering place of choice, the Corners Bar was also a local destination. The Corners has a long, long history, but this article is only about the ups and downs of the last 15 years. The success of the Corners has always been tied to the success of Lake Berryessa as a recreation destination.

Although the Corners is located on a major highway gateway to Lake Berryessa and only a few miles away from the Berryessa Highlands population center, experience indicates that it cannot easily survive without a robust visitor base. There have been four owner/lessors since 2007 - a period which also coincides with the destruction of the Lake Berryessa community, including the nearby Steele Park Resort, by the Bureau of Reclamation.

But in a potentially favorable development, on January 11, 2019  Jim Keller finally sold Moskowite Corners, which he had bought for about $1.1 million in 2008, to Thuyen Tran of Oakland for approximately $699,000. Tran, who comes from the restaurant industry, said he bought the parcel because he has great confidence he can create a destination for both locals and visitors. But he said it was premature to discuss his plans for his new property in detail, although he indicated he’d like to create an operation that could include a restaurant, food products, wine, cheese or other offerings.

The local community is delighted by this turn of events and is hopeful that the new owner will be successful.

Below is a review of the business history of the Corners which may give some insight into the difficulty creating a successful business there.

In 2007 Ron Watt opened the Corners Café and Shopping Plaza in the Moskowite Corners building. The actual owner was one of the co-owners of Spanish Flat Resort, Lee Johnson. Although they worked hard at it, the business was ultimately unsuccessful. Ron Watt went on to run the Berryessa Quick Stop in the closed gas station across the Steele Canyon Road from the Corners. It too was unsuccessful.

 

In 2008 Jim Keller bought the property in a bankruptcy sale for $1.1 million. By April 2009 Keller and Mike Schildknecht had partnered with the hope of making Berryessa Corners a community gathering place for nearby residents. Steele Park Resort was demolished in 2009 with no replacement. They changed the name to Berryessa Corners. The grocery store reopened in January, 2009; the restaurant — Mike’s Barbecue — and the bar were all open by May, 2009. Mike’s sudden and unexpected death on June 9, 2009 left the whole Lake Berryessa community in shock. Unfortunately, the Berryessa Corners enterprise ended with him.

In August 2010, Jim Winchell and his family took over the market, restaurant and bar under lease from Keller. They changed the name to The Crossroads at Lake Berryessa and had high hopes for the business. They opened a great pizza shop and restaurant and remodeled the bar. Unfortunately, they did not have a liquor license and could only serve beer and wine. After a couple of years of hard work they realized they could not make a go of the business, especially with a high monthly lease and no help from the delayed rebuilding of Steele Park Resort by Pensus. The Crossroads was finally closed by the Winchell family on March 11, 2012.

In 2011 Jim Keller had listed the Crossroads at Berryessa for sale for $1.29 million, but was unable to find a buyer. After the Winchell family closed the place in 2012, there were no buyers or people who would lease the site until Yevo Jeworowski leased it to open a brew pub in early 2016. Yevo renamed it the Steele Canyon Saloon.

Yevo, who had previously run Boone’s Saloon in the Spanish Flat Village Center, invested tens of thousands of dollars in new brewing equipment and improvements. Unfortunately, he had not factored in the new state water quality regulations that had been passed regarding beer brewing systems. His effluent would not pass the new standards without an upgrade to the wastewater system run by the owners of the Capell Valley Estates. The owner of the mobile home park declined to do so. Under a special California law that allowed liquor to be served in brew pubs, Yevo was able to open a full bar. Despite some good drinks, rocking bands, and great times, he was forced to close the Steele Canyon Saloon before the end of 2016.


After the demise of the  Steele Canyon Saloon, the Corners site remained closed with no buyers until last month, January 2019. Where did the time go?

pKilkus@gmail.com                       © Peter Kilkus 2018