On Tuesday, the Oakley City Council moved forward on finding a new tenant to lease the “Carpaccio building” and have opened up the bidding process.
The council voted unanimously to execute a termination agreement and deed in Lieu of foreclosure with the owners of Carpaccio’s restaurant—the restaurant will now close on February 15, 2017 according to the Staff Report.
Later in the meeting, the council agreed to lease the building to Buon Appetito, however, decided to allow other businesses a window of 2-weeks to submit a better proposal after the council expressed concerns in the process.
Buon Appetito currently has two Italian restaurants, one in Hayward and the other in Benicia. The operator has extensive restaurant experience, starting his career at II Fornio and then opening an Italian restaurant (Mangia Bene) in Martinez. The operator lives in East County and has already been looking to locate an Italian restaurant in this area. A review of the operators financial statements and tax returns show strong profitability for the last three years. The proposal from this operator would be for an Italian restaurant that has a similar menu as the existing Buon Appetite restaurants, which feature homemade pastas and fresh ingredients. This operator would use the downstairs as a restaurant and the upstairs as an event space, and be open for lunch and dinner. Buon Appetite would offer a seamless transition with a similar Italian restaurant concept and a short turn-around time between Carpaccio’s closing and this restaurant opening. They are also in agreement with the proposed lease terms.
Dwayne Dalman, the city’s economic development manager, stated the city had spoken to 8-10 businesses who showed interest, but noted within the industry, they knew about it back in September—a statement City Manager Bryan Montgomery also confirmed.
Councilman Randy Pope had questioned the process asking why only three and were there other applications that were not as good. Staff stated the three presented to the council were the three who went through the entire process.
Oakley Mayor Sue Higgins was concerned about the process and stated it may not look g
“How does that look if we pick someone and within 10-days someone else submits a proposal. Can we say we will consider it?” asked Higgins.
Dalman explained that the council could open it up for a certain amount of time for people to submit proposals and go through a similar process highlighting with articles in the news media there is more awareness of this building space opening up.
“We did want to minimize that but we do have to go through a public process,” said Dalman. “If that is the direction you want to go we can do outreach.”
Councilwoman Claire Alaura stated she wanted the public an opportunity with the building.
“Since fall, they (staff) have been looking quietly and internally to not put off Carpaccio and their staff and sway business from stopping, however, it was out there whether or not the city wanted it to be,” said Alaura. “I think that when these three recommendations came up, and they are great recommendations, I think a lot of people felt that the public didn’t have a say and would like one. If we are not tied to these three, I would like to propose allowing public input and other businesses submit letters of intent.”
Alaura proposed a timeline for public input.
“Other businesses should have a chance now that it is out in the open,” said Alaura. “We can still consider these three, but allow a little bit more time for others to come forward.”
Montgomery suggested the council could pick one preliminary and give others a chance to compare themselves—such as a letter.
“We could have a 7-to-10 day process,” said Montgomery. “In the restaurant world, since September people really knew this was happening. We may not receive any more letters of interest but if we do we can bring that back.”
Councilman Doug Hardcastle stated that everyone within the industry knew about it for a while, but maybe not the public because they wanted to keep his business going.
“I am ready to take care of it tonight personally,” said Hardcastle. “I think they are all good proposals.”
During council discussion Higgins stated she didn’t want to hurt other local businesses by selecting another bar and grill.
“I ate at Buon Appetito, its good food. The bar and grill, Black Bear is right across the street which offers an American flare with hamburgers and stuff like that. Providence is our bar and grill down the street and its competing with what we already got. I don’t want to hurt their business,” said Higgins. “The reason I like the Italian is because it doesn’t compete and hurt anybody that is there. A bar and grill, maybe Mediterranean but not Mexican because we do have La Costa that is established. I guess I am looking for what direction we can go with this. I would like us to pick one and give us time like the Black Bear Letter.”
Pope stated he has eaten at all three, but was focused on the financials of the deal.
“I have eaten at all three restaurants… all three have fantastic food and enjoyed great service. I think all three would make a great fit for our landmark building,” said Pope. “I am really looking at the financials and that is where I excluded La Veranda which was hard for me because being the local restaurant and I’ve eaten there, I am familiar with it, it was my favorite going in to it. But the financials excluded that for me. Then I got down to the best financials, who would be most successful and who would have the best fit and have a seamless transition because us having a vacant building is not good. Having someone to get in there so you don’t lose existing clientele, then I leaned to Bon Appetito.”
Pope acknowledged that the process didn’t happen in secrecy, but it has a feeling of secrecy.
“I don’t like that feeling of secrecy, I don’t like that appearance,” said Pope. “I would agree that that we mimic the Black Bear process where we intend to operate with this operator and give it a chance for public to have an opportunity and not feel like this was a backroom deal.”
Pope suggested to have a timeline of the next meeting to have letters of letter to intent submitted by interested businesses.
Hardcastle agreed with Pope saying he had no problem opening it up for another few weeks to be a little more hospitable to the community.
“I have gotten calls from people on Buon Appetito and they come highly recommended,” said Hardcastle. “I am leaning that way even though I have not eaten there. Go ahead and open it up for a week or two but make it seamless as possible.”
Alaura stated by opening it up it does not exclude anyone and people can reconsider their proposals already submitted and make them better.
“It puts everyone on a level playing field, its more open and others who may not have heard through the grapevine or otherwise now have an opportunity,” explained Alaura. “In terms of who or what I am leaning towards, again in this timeframe I will visit all three locations and others we hear about. I feel like the bar and grill idea is great and does provide something different to our downtown, but already exists within our city limits. I would hate to infringe in the customer base there. I am sure it would be a different kind of bar and grill. What gets me is all the modifications that need to be done, I get that but as a landlord we have to look at the rent and stipulations you are asking for within the first year which as a landlord would not be beneficial.”
Councilman Kevin Romick thanked Carpaccio’s for taking a risk on Oakley.
“When we first thought of redoing downtown and making this place better, people were not lined up with their hands saying they wanted to be the first restaurant to come to Oakley,” said Romick. “Today we had 9 or 10 show interest. They were the first when not a lot of people waiting in line.”
Romick stated he was not against opening it back up but says staff had already been looking and making cold calling.
“I think its important that we understand the economic development process that Dwayne (Dalman) are doing cold calling constantly. This is a very tight business market where its not like they haven’t know what is going on at Carpaccio’s for some time,” said Romick. “40,000 people, we are not over that hump to draw bigger names, brand names companies that everyone names. They are not lining up on our doors saying let me in.”
He stated it is important that we have doors shut as short as possible in the downtown.
“The last thing we want are shuttered windows,” said Romick. “We want to keep things open and viable for as long as possible. I am leaning towards Buon Appetito. I don’t think it was Italian food that made Carpaccio’s struggle the way it did, I am there were other circumstances.”
At the direction of the city council, city staff will now allow local businesses a chance to submit a proposal. The following was posted by the City for interested businesses.
Oakley is Looking for Restaurant Tenant for Space in Downtown
The City of Oakley is looking for a possible restaurant tenant for a City-owned building in downtown.The two-story building is located at 3070 Main Street, directly across from City Hall. Carpaccio Ristorante Italiano is closing its doors on February 15, 2017, and the City is looking for another restaurant tenant to lease the 5,000 sq. ft. building.
At the January 10, 2017 City Council meeting, the Council tentatively approved a deal with another Italian restaurant, but wanted to open up the process to other parties that may be interested in the space.
Please contact Dwayne Dalman, City of Oakley Economic Development Manager for more information. He can be reached at (925) 625-7006 or at [email protected]. Interested parties have until January 18th to submit a letter of interest for the space.