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Yes, children, once upon a time, people were able to gather in welcoming and crowded public spaces, raise their tankards and tumblers, and cry “Salud!” or “L’Chiam” or “Bottoms Up” to their hearts’ content.

Deep in the purple-tier winter, it’s tempting to nostalgically think of the neighborhood pub as a relic of a rapidly receding past. But Dave and Terri Terwilleger are making a big bet that it’s part of the near future as well.

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The Terwillegers are among the Santa Cruz entrepreneurs who are laying the groundwork for a post-pandemic economy. The owners of the well-known pizzeria Tony & Alba’s will be the impresarios behind the new Twig’s Tap House on Walnut Street in downtown Santa Cruz, in the space that housed 99 Bottles, which closed permanently last March.

Twig’s is only one of several new downtown businesses that have opened, or planning to open, during the pandemic. Others include the seafood restaurant Crazy Crab, the boutique Redemption, clothing retailers Realm and Free People, wellness retailer Yoso The Annex, and the vintage shops The Cat’s Meow and Indigo.

Still, for lovers of craft brews in downtown Santa Cruz, these are dispiriting times. Joining 99 Bottles on the permanently closed list are Rosie McCann’s and The Poet & The Patriot. Pour Tap Room is currently closed with no announced plans to reopen. And A Greater Purpose Brewery, which was originally planning to open in the old Logos building, opted to open in the Twin Lakes area on East Cliff Drive.

From the Terwillegers’ perspective, that leaves a lot of room for them to operate with Twig’s. “I don’t have any reservations at all,” said Dave about opening Twigs in the teeth of an economic shutdown. “It’s a major opportunity and I’m excited about it. I was a stockbroker for a few years and I learned when the market goes down, you always buy. It’s scary, but you get used to it. You have to take advantage of opportunities.”

Terri Terwilleger is also bullish on the prospects for Twig’s. “Everywhere we turned, doors were opening for us,” she said. “We call it following the bread crumbs, and it has brought us to where we are right now.”

There is no official opening day yet planned for Twig’s — “We’re waiting to see what COVID does,” said Dave Terwilleger, “We’re not in a hurry.” But the Terwillegers are hopeful that they’ll be presiding over one of Santa Cruz’s most convivial spots by summer.

The couple, who married in 2019, went on one of their first dates at 99 Bottles, which first opened in 1992.

“I’ve wanted this place for years and years,” said Dave, “and when it finally came on the market, we had to do it.”

Twig’s — the name comes from Dave’s longtime nickname — will strike a different tone than 99 Bottles. “We’re changing the look of it,” said Terri Terwilleger who describes her vision as a hybrid of different styles, “industrial, modern, a little rustic, a lot of pieces, it’s a mixture. But the bones are all still the same.” That means those familiar with 99 Bottles will still recognize the layout of the place. But the flooring, lighting, fans, paint, and the kitchen will all be new. Dave calls the look “casual, but elegant, comfortable.”

As far as the fare is concerned, locally brewed beers and ales will drive the bus in the adult-beverage department, though the beer list is likely to be less extensive than the famed 99 Bottles list. The brews will accompany organic, grass-fed burgers, the focaccia bread that Tony & Alba’s customers know well, a series of flatbread offerings in lieu of pizza, and Buffalo chicken wings. “I went to school near Buffalo, New York,” said Dave. “I get the chicken wing thing.”

The Terwillegers have closed the Santa Cruz location of Tony & Alba’s, though the location in Scotts Valley will remain open. Twig’s, said Dave, was a kind of evolution of his plans for Tony & Alba’s.

“It gave me the opportunity to do the multiple beers and the high-end burgers that I couldn’t do (at Tony & Alba’s), and I’ve always loved the energy (of the 99 Bottles site), just happy people having a good time.”

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Wallace reports and writes not only across his familiar areas of deep interest — including arts, entertainment and culture — but also is chronicling for Lookout the challenges the people of Santa Cruz...