O.B. locals reported seeing a notice posted at South Beach Bar and Grille (5059 Newport Avenue) in mid-August. The notice announced an application was filed with the city to turn the restaurant and bar on the first floor into retail space and the restaurant's roof into a deck bar area. The second floor of the restaurant would remain the same.
South Beach's 2009 expansion of that second floor was the catalyst for a shared parking agreement that now is the catalyst for the proposed renovations.
South Beach's 2009 expansion triggered the city's requirement for dedicated parking spaces for customers. South Beach owner Donald Purvis asked for a little help from his friends Scott Allgaier and Craig Gerwig, owners of the Antique Center (4864 Newport Avenue). This led to the three of them signing a 2009 agreement giving South Beach use of 31 out of 33 total available spaces at the Antique Center parking lot — including one unloading space and one handicap space.
Everything was fine until the owners of the Antique Center decided to sell their property in 2016. That shared-parking agreement wasn't exactly a stellar selling point to prospective buyers as it was signed in perpetuity.
In 2016, the Antique Center's realtor, Tony Franco, said the owners had met with lots of local mom-and-pop business owners but weren't having any luck getting a deal done. They then moved onto big-named restaurateurs and developers, but the shared-parking agreement was a non-starter. Franco said the owners were ready to retire and if they couldn't find a buyer, they would settle for a long-term lease of at least five or ten years.
The recent rumor of big-box retailer Target possibly moving into the Antique Center space led to locals protesting last month. Protests centered on slowing the tide of gentrification on Newport Avenue's business district. (Protests that are a bit ironic considering Cornet, part of a chain of five-and-dime stores, was where the Antique Center is now.) Cornet closed shortly before the Antique Center opened in the mid-1990s. Five-and-dime stores were the precursor to big-box stores like Target — except much cooler, say some, including my mom, who remembers frequenting Cornet.
According to a reliable source, South Beach paid $3500 per month for the Antique Center parking spaces — the tally being $329,000 thus far (agreement signed in November 2009). A great expense, considering many South Beach patrons are unaware of the arrangement.
"Did anyone even know they could park there for South Beach?” says Karlie Koscher. “I just found out a few months ago that customers of South Beach could park there, but the lot is always empty when I drive by."
When I asked if it was okay to park at the Antique Center before visiting South Beach this week, employees of both South Beach and the Antique Center advised against it. A South Beach employee said it wasn't worth the risk and, "I'll pray to the parking gods for you."
At the Antique Center, most of the "tow away" signs don’t mention South Beach. The ones I photographed in 2016 stated it was okay for South Beach customers to park there. Signage mentioning South Beach are still posted in the alley and on one rusty sign in a bush out front. Signage at South Beach remains the same — directing customers to park at the Antique Center.
When I visited South Beach this week, I asked one of the bartenders about their renovation plans. Since retail shops will be on the first floor, "they're going to build an elevator so people can get up to the second floor [restaurant]." She said the elevator could possibly be in the back, where the alley is. She said when construction finally happens, South Beach might have to shut down for a bit. She said there is still a lot up in the air.
I asked the city how many dedicated parking spaces South Beach might need if the proposed renovations are approved. Paul Brencick from city communications relayed answers from the Development Services Department.
"The project is currently under review to determine the amount of square footage allocated to retail, restaurant, office and other uses within the building, including potential outdoor dining,” said Brencick. “All of these uses have different parking requirements. At this time, the plans are not sufficient to make a determination as to the final required number of parking spaces."
In general, do sit-down restaurants require more parking than bars or tasting rooms? He said that restaurants and bars have the same parking rate while tasting rooms are subject to a retail parking rate.
One quandary I've heard repeatedly from locals is why a beach business is expected to find the Holy Grail of extra parking at the beach. Something that proposed beach condos are exempt from in not having to provide extra parking for guests.
I asked if the city might lessen parking requirements at some point. "Parking requirements have recently been lessened as part of larger state and city code changes for affordable housing, mixed-use development, and development around transit priority areas to encourage transportation mode alternatives to the single occupant vehicle."
When might the public hearing happen? "The project will be heard by the [city's] hearing officer once all project review issues are addressed and an environmental determination has been made. The project has only gone through one review and no hearing has been scheduled. The site is within the coastal commission’s appeal jurisdiction, therefore, it may be appealed by the commission for a final decision."
Per the city, the shared parking agreement will stay in place until an amendment is made to the coastal development permit. In other words, despite the new signage at the Antique Center, South Beach customers are still allowed to park there. Though, it's possible you might still get towed since an Antique Center employee told me this week, "It's just our parking."