Hopmonk | Sebastopol

Despite a rough start, BiteClubbers say fare has improved

Editor’s Note: Though BiteClub has not returned to HopMonk since 2008, fans tell me the food has improved a great deal and is a solid choice for tasty pub grub.
BiteClub was ready to love Hopmonk. All the build up, all the hype, all the beer. What could go wrong? Apparently a lot.

I’m willing to overlook a whole heck of a lot when a restaurant first opens. Kitchens need time to get the drill right. Staff need breaking
in. Hey, it’s a brewpub for goodness sake, right? All taken into account. My recent experience went way beyond needing a few suggestions. It was downright upsetting. Where’s the supposed chef wunderkind, Lynn McCarthy hired to run the kitchen?
For openers, the menu lists a made-to-order, warm German soft pretzel with mustard as an appetizer. Nifty! But when it arrived at the table stone cold, BiteClub had to wonder just how made-to-order this pretzel actually is. Our server kindly took it back. And then returned it piping hot out of–and I have to guess here, but I’ve made plenty of microwave pretzels — the microwave. Soft, gooey and steaming in the middle. You don’t get that kind of heat from “baking” in an oven per the menu. Okay, for $2, we’ll move on. But bad first impression.
For the next mistep, my dining companion was handed a pulled pork sandwich. She didn’t order a pulled pork sandwich. We then waited as the server explained that she enjoyed the pulled pork sandwich and that’s probably why she had given that order to the kitchen. Um. Right. Okay. We waited patiently.
BiteClub ordered the mussels and pub fries (an appetizers) as an entree. On the plus side, the $11 order was huge.
Goody! Except that the mussels were dry and rubbery, negating the thrill of having so many of them. The mussel broth made with Belgian
stout was so bitter it was almost impossible to eat. Was it me? Nope, my pal confirmed the overwhelming bitterness of the broth. Too much
stout in the mix? Methinks. The usual sweet, briny goodness of the mussel liquor just couldn’t compete. The pub fries and aoili were a liferaft of edibility. We both dove in with gusto, still waiting for her sandwich.
When it finally arrived, my pal’s Hopmonk Reuben was soggy and tired. Corned beef was nicely done, but the rest of the
lineup–sauerkraut, remoulade (?), and Gruyere–needed a pep talk. Served with a handful of chips and a pickle, I found myself apologizing
to her repeatedly for my last minute decision to come to Sebastopol rather than treating ourselves to lunch at Chloes.
Okay I’m thinking, maybe we’ll end on a good note with dessert.
Another ruh-roh moment. Dry slices of dense, hard-to-cut chocolate stout cake that left us in search of something to wash the whole thing down. Maybe a beer would have helped. Maybe a little more oversight of the kitchen. Maybe a little more time.
Service was commendable. The beer lineup is stellar. The use of local purveyors is terrific. The potential is great in such a high traffic area. But BiteClub’s still got a bitter taste in her mouth. And not just from the mussels.
Is Hopmonk off the hook, or just off? Tell us.

Hopmonk, 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol


2 thoughts on “Hopmonk | Sebastopol

  1. I had lunch today at the Abbey, and I too have put off going there because of the reviews. We were in the area on an errand and decided to give it a try. Because it was before noon it didn’t look like they were open. Their” open” sign is pretty small and I had just overlooked it. I had the fish and chips and my friend had the reuben sandwich. Both dishes were quite good. I have noticed the portion of Alaskan Cod they use somewhere else in town and it does seem a little small. The fries are tops, and the slaw was some of the best I have had. Our server was attentive and answered the few questions we had. The chef is Billy Reed. We had to ask since some of the reviews here have been negative, and our experience was nothing but positive. A sign at the bar said Leon Russell will be there 12/19. Oh yes, the ale was great.

  2. Comment: The beer was really good… didn’t ry the food.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: Vince (25/04/2008 11:45:27 AM)
    Comment: While our food experience wasn’t as bad as yours, it was pretty ‘meh’. I’m personally willing to overlook it because of all the BEER but, if you’re going to call something a “gastropub”, you really should have your food in order. I know for a fact that they were scrambling last minute to get things together for the opening, since I tried to go for lunch and there were workers all over the place. Too bad they didn’t have their chef in the kitchen a week or so early to get things ironed out.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: paul79 (25/04/2008 12:34:43 PM)
    Comment: I had a similar experience Tuesday lunch. The $6 side salad was meager and not especially good quality (I’m spoiled by Laguna Farms mix). The rueben took forever and was soggy and light on the meat for a $11 sandwich. Go for the beer, stay for the music. Speaking of mussels, on Wednesday night Hopmonk was hopping, K&L was empty, “new restaurant syndrome” I’m sure. The mussels at K&L were amazing, plump and fresh. Unfortunately, their prices have gone up quite a bit, so it’s become strictly a special occasion place for us, instead of the lovely local weeknight spot. Any news on the new Cafe St Rose??
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: candice (25/04/2008 1:20:23 PM)
    Comment: We went at night and after waiting over an hour and half with no food and just a beer we left. They did comp the beer which was very nice and I will probably try it again. Our server said they were overwhelmed and didn’t expect it to be so busy but they just had that huge article in the PD so they should have expected something.On a different note I went on Yelp.com and tried to post a review and they wanted my email address and my password. Have you ever heard of that??Who would do that? I set up a new email account and password and they said I didn’t have any contacts so I couldn’t post a review.Who in there right mind would give their password to a website. My husband doesn’t even have my password.
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    Posted By: just guessing (28/04/2008 2:59:27 AM)
    Comment: they wanted your YELP (registered) email address and your password. for YELP. not for your email account. and yes, you have to register to post. i think you got lost.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: jakob (28/04/2008 6:21:30 AM)
    Comment: They only require your email and password if you wish to automatically add your contacts from your email account to your yelp! friends. It isn’t something you have to do to join, just an option.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: Mike (25/04/2008 2:38:38 PM)
    Comment: Thank you for letting us know the food sucks. I will go for the beer but will eat somewhere else.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: brooke (25/04/2008 3:54:42 PM)
    Comment: I’ve tried the food twice now and have been disappointed both times. first time, I ordered the green beans with shallots and hazelnuts, the beans came with neither, after sending it back, the cook came out and delivered it to me with an apology (thats nice ) but geeze how does that get overlooked? I mean two of the three main ingredients in a dish.. friends at the table ordered hamburgers, big boring bun- can hardly spot the tiny ball of burger, and over-cooked. My Reuben wasn’t soggy but so dry and unappetizing – dry meat, stale tasting bread,not enough sauerkraut (could be helped by grilling maybe, and better condiments.) The wild mushroom dish had very few visible mushrooms. We also had the pretzel, blah blah blah…but have to say, the mustard was very good. What’s wrong here? Don’t they taste the food? We all want it to succeed, but so far, just go for the beer and the great sound system.
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    Posted By: Brooke (02/05/2008 2:23:29 PM)
    Comment: ok, I believe in giving credit when credit is due. last night at the monk I tried my friend’s rueben sandwich and it was great. big and juicy, balanced with cheese, saurkraut, plenty of moist & lean corned beef, even the bread was grilled golden crisp -perhaps they read my earlier review and opted to grill the bread as I suggested? don’t know, but they seem to be listening and responding and it looks like they’re going to get it all together. …looking forward. …now if they can do something about that duck…
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: Mia (25/04/2008 5:30:28 PM)
    Comment: I went there last week and was fairly impressed. I too ordered the pretzel, and mine was fresh from the oven, still warm and doughy. I was most impressed with the apetizer that had bread, breadsticks, herbed cheese, olive tampanade and trout spread. Though the trout spread tasted more like salmon, and was pink. I plan to return and try more of the fair, and the vast selection of beer.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: Jackie (25/04/2008 6:15:23 PM)
    Comment: Is it just me or would it make sense to wait a couple of weeks after a restaurant opens to make sure they have ironed things out. Some people just have to be the first to do something for the bragging rights.
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    Posted By: Mike (26/04/2008 12:12:20 AM)
    Comment: It’s just you. If they are open for business and charging full price it should be reviewed before people spend their hard earned money to eat there. If they aren’t up to par, they shouldn’t be charging full price. The “ironing out” should be done before the place opens.
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    Posted By: Jackie (26/04/2008 2:53:55 PM)
    Comment: You’re absolutely right, Mike. I didn’t think it out. Sorry.
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    Posted By: Mike (26/04/2008 3:47:38 PM)
    Comment: No worries. Just my take on it. Many reviewers will wait at least a month to let them “iron out” any kinks. Of course there are unforeseen problems early on (usually service oriented) but bad food is inexcusable.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: Sebastopol Local (26/04/2008 1:53:47 AM)
    Comment: After being a SBC faithful, curiosity got the better of us. The place has really undergone a change inside. Seated quickly, but menu took over 5 minutes to get. Saw confusion in servers. Out of the duchess beer I requested BUT Bar Manager sent over 4 beer samplers on the house, then 2 more tastes we requested. Beer is very good. Food Service was slower, Samosas tasty in won ton wrappers, Pulled pork needs more sauce and coleslaw needs to be a tad sweeter. Tavern chips served with it were awesome. They need to be on the apps menu. Side of mac & cheese hot, cheesy and yummy….Caesar salad ok according to spouse…calamari ok too with aioli. Asked if we could meet Dean, and he came out and said hello….all in all worth a trip back, and sit outside!
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: mike (26/04/2008 9:04:55 AM)
    Comment: Having been in the food business for 10 years there is really no excuse for so so service and not really good food. I feel sorry for the servers and the cooks because it sounds to me that they are doing their best with a place with no business plan and/or no manager to run the kitchen and the front of the house. Perhaps down the road the owners will wake up and realize they need a new plan to get back on track. Hate seeing and hearing about a new place with such bad reviews. I am planning to go in after a couple of months. Perhaps by that I time, I hope, they will have their you know what together.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: mike (26/04/2008 10:13:36 AM)
    Comment: I can’t believe they didn’t have any Red Tail or Blue Heron ales from the FIRST brewpub. Better than any New Belgium stuff.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: Geneva (26/04/2008 10:18:26 AM)
    Comment: I visited Hopmonk on its first Saturday night. As soon as I walked in, I was struck by the fact that I was unwittingly looking down onto the plates all of the diners. I felt as if I had walked into a fishbowl. The new booths are a hideous red color, covered in a material that is surely leather but that looks like naugahyde. The bar area seemed well-appointed and the improvements to the outdoor area are commendable. Then, when I spoke to the doorman about peeking inside the dance area to see what had changed, I was treated rudely. He frowned at me and told me I could not even look inside until I paid the $10.00 cover charge. My friend and I looked at each other and decided to hear music elsewhere. The whole experience left me flat, after having so much anticipation about Hopmonk’s opening. I honestly don’t know if I will return.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: ColdWolfe (27/04/2008 11:43:23 AM)
    Comment: First off, who seats a couple next to the door on a busy beer garden night when there are plenty of other more appropriate seats? We froze. Second, what do you think when you hear “Sonoma Chicken” under the salad cat.? I’ll kill the suspense for you and tell you that it’s mayonnaise-drenched scoop of chicken salad atop a bed of spiky greens; don’t look for the grapes and walnuts…they’re not there. Finally the service was, well the service is trying to stay afloat of the mess the kitchen is spitting out. They’re accommodating, friendly and apologetic. The management could use a couple of pointers starting with: Comp. the meal. Don’t ask “would you like us to comp. the meal?”…just do it, and if you’ve got a bad plate on a table of six…I mean a really bad plate, the meal has been ruined for everyone. Comp. the table. Be aggressive. Ask us if we plan on coming back; then make sure we come back (i.e. gift cert.) In the end it’d be much easier to keep something bad from happening than having to place a BAND-AID on it…band-aids are notorious for coming off.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: T&L (27/04/2008 4:10:49 PM)
    Comment: We have been to Hopmonk twice and have not been as disappointed as the comments noted. I is unfortunate that people are not willing to give a second try to a place that has only been open for two weeks. Give them at least 3 months and if it still sucks, don’t go back. There are many places around the county that didn’t do well their first month of business but many love now. I look forward to them working out the kinks!
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    Posted By: Bianca (27/04/2008 6:42:23 PM)
    Comment: Yes! Agreed. It seems like this Hopmonk critique has just been complaining,complaining and more complaining.I am planning on going to try this place out, but will in a few weeks. The menu concepts look excellent,the use of local preveyors is great, but it sounds like the execution in the kitchen may be the problem. Probably staffing. They will work it out. Biersch knows what he’s doing and he hired smart people.
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    Posted By: jacob (28/04/2008 3:04:02 AM)
    Comment: The question is though, did Biersch REALLY hire smart people? Do you know them/that? It sounds like he didn’t. And what local purveyors are being used, and how much? Do they list them anywhere? Maybe the hype is what’s killing them, but I think it might be the kitchen.
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    Posted By: Gregory (24/06/2008 11:04:13 PM)
    Comment: Local purveyors include the Village Bakery in Sebastopol. How do I know this? I met the chef while she was shopping one day. All I know is they have an account there, which tells me that they do some amount of business with them, and look up the Village Bakery if you want some of the best tasty treats in town.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: Lynn (28/04/2008 6:41:30 AM)
    Comment: Hopmonk will get the kinks worked out and in the mean time stop by for a beer and head across the street to GTO’s or one of the other restaurants downtown for dinner. I think Hopmonk should put some big screen TVs downstairs for the nights they don’t have music. There’s no place downtown to watch the playoffs and have a beer.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: claire (28/04/2008 3:29:33 PM)
    Comment: Went two weeks in a row. I was really excited, always liked the other place, couldn’t figure out why it didn’t work. First week waited over one and a half hours , but accepted it for the newness and went with time to burn. Enjoyed sitting and listening to the music in the nice beer garden by the fountain. Finally got seated, very late, and decided what the heck, and ordered the expensive steak. It was tough and cold and not worth the $18. Flash forward to the next week. Decide to give it another go. Went with plenty of time again, listened to music since my table was going to be over an hour, go to check on table at an hour and a half. They tell me they couldn’t find me and tough luck. A woman there with some compassion did set things straight. Got a table only to be let down by the overpriced for what you get meal. Come on $2 extra for both blue cheese and bacon, making my burger a whopping $15! I know a couple of other beer gardens with better burgers priced less than that! Seems very southern california style, none of the down hominess that would be nice to see in Sonoma County and certainly not up to par with other eateries. I will hold out some hope. The idea is nice but the reality is not quite there.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: Pearl Queen (28/04/2008 4:03:38 PM)
    Comment: My husband and I went last Thursday night. I figured after a week they’d have had a chance to work out any kinks. While we were not terribly disappointed there is room for improvement. Upon entering the dining room, which was full and quite noisy, we were offered a table on the back patio and since it was a delightfully warm evening this was easily acceptable. The first beer we ordered, their house brand Hopmonk Tavern Ale, had run completely out, which I thought it a bit strange but with so much to choose from and with a recommendation from the wait staff, we were delighted with our second choice, the Belhaven Scottish Ale. I appreciate that they have the alcohol content listed. The double-sided, single sheet menu with one side dedicated to beverages and one to the food selections, seemed a bit thin on the food offerings. I look forward to seeing if the seasonal rotations fill out the menu. I opted for the grass-fed burger and my husband ordered the Hopmonk Reuben. The beer was served promptly but I would have appreciated a little bread or chips to munch while we drank our beer. The food was served in a reasonable amount of time. The burger was good, however the barbeque sauce served with it was not very pleasing to my palette, and no other condiments were offered. The fries were also good. My husband stated that if he’d never had a Rueben sandwich before he might have thought theirs was a good one (Hopmonk’s was light on the meat). Still it was satisfying with good flavour and texture and he loved the crispy chips. The atmosphere outside in the beer garden was a bit ill defined. There were several very young children running and playing and poorly supervised, which was distracting. I would not recommend this place for families with small children. A couple of gentlemen at the table next to us, left before ordering because of the sun being in their face. At another table I noticed one patron receiving the wrong drink. Later, the chef came outside to take a break; I assume, as she sat and drank some water, she did appear to be quite harried. We both live and work in Sebastopol and we’ve tried both K&L and GTOs several times. Hopmonk could be a nice addition to our choices here in town, and so I am hopeful they will get up to speed soon and hang around for a while.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: Lisa M. (28/04/2008 7:51:25 PM)
    Comment: My fiance and I went to Hopmonk on Saturday night to go see Dgiin and Free Peoples (ok mostly to see Dgiin). We got there around 8:00 and it was already packed but we were able to get a table in about 15 minutes. The beer was great and the service was very expedient considering how busy it was. I had a side of garlic fries and my fiance had the pulled pork sandwich. I liked the fries; they were warm, salty, and very garlicky with just enough cheese and parsley on top for flavor. Jason said that he thought it was nothing special and had too much sauce. The one good thing was that the food arrived very quickly, which was somewhat surprising! Overall, I would try it again but maybe wait for the kitchen to get into the rhythm of things.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: Wojamo (29/04/2008 2:10:27 PM)
    Comment: I know there is already plenty of feedback on here- but I had to throw in my two cents. Went there last night with the spouse- LOVED it. I had the grilled cheese with apples (yummy!) and the spouse had the mussels. Service was prompt and courteous and the food was great- especially for the price. Tough to beat- sitting in the beer garden on a warm spring evening, having some good beer and good food and then walking over to Screamin’ Mimi’s for some ice cream. Perfect! Looking forward to the beer garden in the summer.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: Elizabeth (29/04/2008 9:35:49 PM)
    Comment: Glad to read the review but what’s up with the misspellings? Mistep s/b misstep, and liferaft s/b life raft. Thanks for listening.
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    Posted By: language? (30/04/2008 3:12:10 AM)
    Comment: Really? THAT is what you are going to care about? On a food blog? It’s just a little funny you would criticize when you… Let’s just get into grammar and misuse of adjectives and bad sentence structure. “Glad to read the review but what’s up with the misspellings? Mistep s/b misstep, and liferaft s/b life raft. Thanks for listening.” How about: “I was glad to read the review, but what’s up with the misspellings?” What IS up? If I am going to be casual enough to use terms like “what’s up,” I think I might let the omission of an s and a space pass. “Mistep s/b misstep, and liferaft s/b life raft. Thanks for listening.” s/b? Really? While I am sure that Heather knows her way around a few online messenger programs, I am ROFL. BTW, no one is “listening.” Can we still be BFFs? Step out of your glass house before you cast stones.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: http:// (01/05/2008 4:05:22 PM)
    Comment: We went here last night without even knowing about all these reviews….We will not be back. They stuck us in a back corner by the wait station and we had people all around us and bumping into us. We wanted to sit inside because it was cold so instead we got stuck by the open door with the old air coming in. I ordered the New Yorker sandwich, it was okay. We also got the fish and chips. It was $14.50 and it was very small. The people at the table behind us got the same thing and were very disappointed with it also. It was very overpriced and the food was not good enough to make a second trip.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: Chris (02/05/2008 12:04:47 PM)
    Comment: so much for hopmunk… try the new Healdsburg Bar and Grill… run by the purveyors of Cyrus. Burgers were the best I have had in years! Try the truffle oil and parmigiano Reggiano fies (also garlic and plain fries on the menu) Basic burger (1/2 pound of meat) was $7.50 add-ons of Hobbs’ applewood smoked bacon and gourmet cheddar took it to $10.50. All I could say was Wow.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: J H (06/05/2008 7:22:02 AM)
    Comment: Four of us had lunch 5/5 at Hopmonk. The beers (4 in all) were wonderful. Two burgers were excellent, cooked to order. The mussels were not rubbery, there was plenty of them and they were great! The sausage plate was good as well. We will definitely go back.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: noah (06/05/2008 10:46:05 AM)
    Comment: great music venue. atrocious food.there is too much great dining in the area to expect people not to be disappointed. p.s. the decor looks as though they took pictures of the underwood & gave them to their decorator a a template.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: Amy (06/05/2008 4:40:35 PM)
    Comment: We went the other night (Saturday) without a reservation and they told us, rather rudely, that we should have made them and that a link to Opentable was on their website. This is definitely not the case, as I specifically checked ahead of time to see if they recommended reservations. The wait was 1 hour, which would have been fine if we could have sat at the bar. The bar was WAY too small.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: j.c. (08/05/2008 1:40:02 AM)
    Comment: great review thread below… http://www.waccobb.net/forums/showthread.php?p=57556
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: Shannon (08/05/2008 10:20:39 PM)
    Comment: I avoided trying Hopmonk initially after it first opened because of the reviews. I figured I would give them a bit of time to work out the kinks. Today we tried it for lunch. The waiter was not knowledgeable of the food, the menu, or how to take an order- and the service continued to be lackluster throughout the meal. I guess we were supposed to know to ask for something other than the chips that came with our sandwiches? The chips were greasy and under seasoned. The pretzel was awful! Is it bad to say that I have had better pretzels from skating rinks? It was rubbery in texture and hard and uncrunchable in others- and smaller than expected. The grilled cheese sandwich was so greasy that oil/butter dripped down my fingers. I get that these sandwiches can be messy, but ick! Despite the brown mustard on the sandwich it was overall very bland. My friend had the reuben and raved about it. The Scottish Ale was excellent but almost $40 for lunch was pretty ridiculous in my book.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: Tamara (22/06/2008 10:42:23 AM)
    Comment: Our experience at Hopmonk was a disaster, I’ll never go there again. From the waiter telling me he had to check to see if there was a clean wine glass in order to serve me the wine I’d ordered, then he had to check and see if they still had the wine I ordered, to the bland mushroom/beet salad and the incredibly fishy smelling and tasting (spoiled) calamari which we sent back after two bites each, then charging us for the nasty calamri, plus charging us twice for the duck salad that my friend ordered. It was an obnoxious experience.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: Jerry (10/08/2008 9:29:38 PM)
    Comment: I’ve tried the Hopmonk twice and the last time was the last time. Each time I ordered my favorite pub food, fish and chilps. The portion was amazingly small (probably less than 2/3rds the portion of the single fish and chips at the Black Rose) and very greasy. All this for $14 as compared to $10 to $12 at most brew pubs. The Beer menu is great and, if you ask for it, the detailed menu is complete and fun, but they have overpriced their beer to the point that the four of us, all microbrew fans, who were there felt we were being taken for a ride. We asked to sit outside and were told that required reservations while we noticed vacant tables while we ate. We finally went outside after we ate and listed to Bill, the daytime bartender and former bartender at Sebastopol Brewery, perform, which was the highlight of our evening. Too bad, a brewpub should be a fun place with decent food, good value, and good beer. Hopmonk only meets one requirement and they are overpriced in meeting the good beer one.
    Reply to Comment
    Posted By: Susan James (06/09/2008 10:04:10 AM)
    Comment: I love HopMonk for its “activity factor”…however, the menu leaves a lot to be desired and the food is nothing special…not even near anything special. Take a look at all the restaurants that have gone under in Sebastopol…seems like a bit more effort could go into food that is at least palatable. We all love having somewhere to go to with music and fun, there you’ve done a great job, but HopMonk, you need to get a bit more serious about your food…after all, you are a restaurant!
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