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From tragedy to tequila, Augie’s opens in Santa Barbara

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - When Berkeley "Augie" Johnson lost his home in the Montecito Mudslide five years ago, he never thought it would lead to him opening a high-end tequila bar in Santa Barbara on State Street.

"We came out of it that morning with no wallets, no keys, no cars, no passports, no pictures, nothing," said Johnson.

Johnson asked the Santa Barbara Firesafe Council how he could prepare for the next big wildfire.

The council recommended building a defensible space using plants that would reduce the fire's behavior.

The plant they recommended was agaves.

"I have been planting thousands of (agave) plants up and down the coast in people's defensible space as a way to mitigate the fire effects on the next big fire that we all know is going to happen."

That is when Johnson ran into a new problem, what was he going to do with all these agave plants?

Johnson says he traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico and fell in love with the process of making tequila.

But again, Johnson had a new issue, what was he to do with all the tequila that he made with all the agave plants that he had planted?

"So I thought, restaurants!" 

Johnson teamed up with local restaurants in the area to sell his agave spirits before opening his own high-end tequila bar. 

Augie's, located on the corner of State and Ortega street, hosts over 300 tequilas and a hundred mezcals. 

"It can be overwhelming. But I hope people come in here so that we can teach them about the wonders of the agave experience," said Johnson. 

Augie's is in the former space of Panera Grill and Left at Albuquerque.

Johnson hopes he is able to use the space to highlight higher-end Mexican food. 

Johnson recommends getting one of the flights of tequila with either the hanger steak or the scallops. 

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
fire impact
money and business
Santa Barbara

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Ryder Christ


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