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Anthony’s Out at Embarcadero?

After 60 years, Port puts landmark space on market
Troy Johnson

By Troy Johnson

One of San Diego’s most iconic restaurant spaces is officially up for grabs.

For the last 60 years, Anthony’s has occupied 31,608 square-feet of prime, waterfront restaurant and event space along North Harbor Drive with their three concepts: Anthony’s Fish Grotto, Fishette and Star of the Sea Room. It is the restaurant in the heart of The Embarcadero (next to the Star of India and the cruise ship terminal), which has seen dramatic redevelopment over the last decade.

Their current lease is up on Jan. 31, 2017. The Port of San Diego has found Anthony’s does “not meet the definition of a tenant in good standing” under the terms of their lease. So this week the Port will send out an official RFP (Request For Proposals) on the space.

Tonight, you can bet most major restaurateurs will be calling their architects, designers and assorted brainstormers. This is big. The space will likely harbor three different restaurant concepts and operators in the relatively near future.

Anthony’s had submitted a proposal for a $9.5 million renovation of the space, which included partnering with The Fish Market. The Port was impressed by the proposal, according to the minutes of their May 12 meeting. But it may be too little, too late. The current building was last dramatically improved in 1965. Although “minor improvements” have been made over the last 52 years, the Port concluded Anthony’s has “not completed any significant capital investment” to warrant an extension of their lease.

One of the Port’s criteria Anthony’s failed to meet was “maintenance of the leasehold in good condition, free of deferred maintenance.” In other words, the restaurant has looked pretty shoddy for decades.

The space is too valuable. After 60 years, why not see what grand ideas the open market will bring?

You can bet the country’s top restaurant groups like Orlando-based Darden (Eddie V’s, Olive Garden, etc.) and Costa Mesa-based King’s Seafood Company (Lou & Mickey’s, Water Grill, etc.) will be submitting proposals.

At the risk of sounding preciously provincial—it would be a shame if such an iconic space went to an out-of-town operator. Ideally, an iconic San Diego restaurant space would go to a San Diego icon. Or icons. (Note: The RFP is also open to “commercial recreation” proposals.)

San Diego has enough locally based restaurant groups with the clout to pull off a concept of this size—whether it be Consortium Holdings (Ironside, Craft & Commerce, etc.), Urban Kitchen Group (Cucina Urbana, Cucina Enoteca, etc.), Whisknladle Hospitality (Whisknladle, Prepkitchen, etc.), Solace Restaurants (Urban Solace, Sea & Smoke, etc.) or Cohn Restaurant Group (The Prado, Bo Beau, etc.).

Anticipating this redevelopment, the Port commissioned a study by commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) to find the average characteristics for a successful coastal restaurants in San Diego. They found that the average successful operation was 7,500 square feet, with seating for 215 diners, and revenues of $857 per square foot per year. Based on those numbers, JLL suggested the space might be best suited for three separate restaurants.

Anthony’s redevelopment proposal is not out of the running. But with the Port concluding they don’t meet the criteria to be in good standing, it seems unlikely.

So let’s pretend that three new San Diego restaurants win the right to the space. Which three would YOU want to see?

Anthony’s Out at Embarcadero?

Troy Johnson

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