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Fusion Gastropub Coming to Mix at Millenia


By Karen Pearlman

San Diego Business Journal

January 26, 2024


CHULA VISTA – They’ve been out of school for years, but it’s a happy homecoming for Cris Liang and Joon Lee.


The proprietors of Common Theory Public House, Realm of the 52 Remedies and Woomiok in the Convoy District area will open their latest Common Theory Public House next month in the Otay Ranch region of Chula Vista, the city in which both Liang and Lee grew up.


The 4,500-square foot spot featuring more of its specialty Korean-Chinese-Mexican-American fusion cuisine will be an anchor tenant at the Mix at Millenia master planned community.


The friends and business partners, both graduates of UC San Diego, also plan to open another spot next door, Sura KBBQ, a Korean barbecue joint, in March, with another partner.


Lee said he and Liang have plans to open a gourmet ice cream shop in Millenia in the very near future.


Liang grew up in the food service business. His parents, Chinese immigrants that settled in Mexico before relocating to San Diego, owned the restaurant Palacio Royal, in Tijuana for nearly 30 years. Lee, who was born in Korea, operated fast-food chain Rice King and ran a single store for about five years.


“Our friendship goes way back and is strong,” Liang said. “Our partnership is great too. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and are able to divide and conquer to make sure we cover all the bases of running multiple businesses. Not a lot of people can say that friends became good business partners, but we’re lucky to be on the good side of those statistics.


Founded in 2014 when Liang and Lee sought to create a vibrant hangout spot, a neighborhood bar that served great food and delicious beer in a friendly atmosphere, Common Theory is known for its extensive, diverse and ever-evolving draft beer list. (There are always 32 rotating beers on tap, Lee said.)


In 2023, Liang said the gastropub’s most popular items were Salt & Pepper Chicken Wings, Buffalo Cauliflower and Hazy IPAs.


Leaving the Engineering World’s Rat Race

“CTPH was the result of our entrepreneurship, the result that stemmed from two friends who were equally stuck in their own two paths and were seeking something much greater,” Liang said. “I was running that rat race in the corporate engineering world, and Joon was running a fast-food chain location that had stagnant business results. The name comes from our group of friends whose common interest is quality craft beer, delicious food and an overall good time with each other’s company.


That was our Common Theory!” Common Theory Public House also includes a back-door speakeasy Realm of the 52 Remedies, which opened in 2018, and is run by beverage director Chris Lee. Lee created the 52 Remedies cocktail program and now oversees the entire beverage program of Common Theory. He will create the drink menu for the new location in Chula Vista.“ We feel honored and excited to have made a full circle back to our hometown,” Liang said. “We can’t wait to bring a little bit of Convoy down to Chula Vista. We picked Otay Ranch because… South Bay has been hungry and thirsty for something new, something exciting and delicious.” Liang, who graduated from Bonita Vista High School, and Li, an Eastlake High alumnus, say that Chula Vista has enough corporate chain restaurants and felt now is the right time to establish a second location for the CTPH gastropub and local craft beer.


They also note that Otay Ranch has grown tremendously over the years and they have been studying the area for a decade, citing the growth of the Millenia neighborhood as another reason to expand. They did not share the company’s most recent financials but told the San Diego Business Journal in 2021 that pre-COVID-19, Liang had grown the revenue of his collective businesses, under parent companies JCL Investment (Common Theory and Realm of the 52 Remedies) and LNA Restaurant Group (Woomiok), to roughly $3 million.


“We have financed Common Theory between Cris and I for the first one and the second location as well,” Lee said. “We have been growing every year; revenue wise, we had about more than 30% growth compared to the first year. We have successfully added 52 Remedies into the mix also and that creates a whole other chunk of revenue as well.”


CTPH faced challenges during COVID-19 pandemic, and Liang said that without PPP funding and its landlord’s willingness to assist, the businesses likely would not have survived.


“Some days during COVID we sold less than $500 all day, not enough to pay anything, things were bad,” Liang said. “I also remember having to stay nimble, stay flexible and be able to change our operations at a moment’s notice. Getting through (the pandemic) proves to ourselves that we can stay nimble and make the proper adjustments to weather the ups and downs of business cycles.”


Common Theory Public House

FOUNDED: 2014

CO-FOUNDERS: Cris Liang and Joon Lee

HEADQUARTERS: Kearny Mesa’s Convoy District, coming to Otay Ranch

BUSINESS: Restaurant/Bar

EMPLOYEES: 45

CONTACT: 619-780-6689


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