Retail roundup: Remodel ongoing at PB Bar & Grill, new eatery planned for former crab shack
The former Joe’s Crab Shack, at 4325 Ocean Blvd., has been gutted and will become a new restaurant. / PHOTO BY LAINIE FRASER
It's summer, the tourists are here, and the livin' is easy. But business activity is still buzzing in the beach communities.
Pacific Beach Bar & Grill
This popular eatery at 860 Garnet Ave., closed since April 15, 2015, has been undergoing an extensive remodel by new owners Eric Lingenfelder and Mark Cirillo of the Verant Group and David Cohen (formerly of West Coast Tavern and co-owner of Uptown Tavern), who purchased the building and the business.
Cirillo, Joe Vaught and Lingenfelder are the founders and principals of Verant Group, and are now in the process of taking the company to the next level. The trio collectively possess years of hospitality and restaurant experience as they each started out in the industry as servers, door security or dishwashers, before working their way up in the industry.
Responsible for developing and successfully managing many of San Diego’s top establishments such as Barleymash, Sandbar, Tavern at the Beach, West Coast Tavern, Uptown Tavern, and True North, Verant has created inviting spaces that are well received by locals and visitors alike.
The design and architecture are being headed up by Bluemotif Architecture, which has designed restaurants such as Prep Kitchen, Kettner Exchange and Juniper and Ivy.
A summer opening was anticipated, but the property is still under major construction.
Joe's Crab Shack
Closed since Sept. 21, 2015, the former Joe's Crab Shack, at 4325 Ocean Blvd. adjacent to the Pacific Beach Shore Club on the boardwalk, is being renovated.
The restaurant opted to move on after its 15-year lease ran out last year.
Rumors are that the Verant Group and Todd Brown, owner of Bub's Dive Bar and a partner at Good Times Design, were joining forces here on a new bar/restaurant concept.
Three Joe's Crab Shack locations remain in San Diego in Oceanside, Hazard Center and another near Seaport Village.
The opening of a new Baja-themed restaurant under construction on the site of the former China Inn site at 877 Hornblend St. has been delayed.
“A couple protesting our liquor license transfer from China Inn to Pueblo, will delay our opening by about a six weeks,” said Mark Oliver, Pueblo's co-owner. “I would estimate that opening date for Pueblo will come during the second week of August.”
China Inn closed in April 2014 after 25 years. The property was sold to a group of local investors including Oliver, a San Diego native.
Oliver has more than 30 years experience in the local restaurant trade including a 20-year partnership at George's at the Cove, as well as his involvement in Randy Jones All American Sports Grill in Mission Valley, which closed in June 2014.
The restaurateur said delaying Pueblo's is going to be expensive.
“That is going to take about $200,000 in wages, per month, out of the PB economy, and impact a lot of people who live paycheck to paycheck in our neighborhood,” Oliver said, noting his view that “the reason for the protest is not about what Pueblo is doing, but rather it is with this couple's frustration with the noisy 'irresponsible' operator of a bar near their home, and their perceived lack of support from the ABC and the SDPD to correct the situation that has them angry.”
China Inn was opened by Judy and Andy Kim in 1988, and remained an eatery in Pacific Beach due to its authentic cuisine, tiki bar, cocktails and interesting atmosphere. Previous tenants on the site were Waibel’s restaurant that opened in 1954, and Copper Skillett, which took over in 1975.
Oliver has been remodeling the space to offer outdoor dining and a modern ambiance. Previously, Oliver said the new restaurant’s layout “will try to seamlessly blend the indoors and the outdoors, with much of the seating being in an open courtyard.”
Oliver said his more-upscale eatery's exterior design will “display elements of the Pueblo architecture, but in a contemporary way.”
He added the new menu will “lean favorably toward seafood and consequently offer lighter, healthier and fresher options than found in a typical Mexican restaurant … honoring the essence of Baja cuisine in some way – like the product utilized or the use of a specific cooking method. Guests will probably come to identify us as being a seafood restaurant as much as a Mexican restaurant.”
New Crown Point eatery?
Rumor has it that plans are in the works to turn the former Jade Dragon Yoga Shala space at 3453 Ingraham St. into a new restaurant concept.
An unconfirmed report has it that the retail space has been purchased by The Patio Group of restaurants, founded by Gina Champion-Cain, who has plans to turn it into a new bar/restaurant concept.
The Patio Restaurant Group is billed as San Diego's favorite neighborhood-focused, pet friendly and sustainable restaurant group. The group recently opened The Patio in Left Field, near Padres' Petco Park downtown.
Now in her 50s and established in her career, Champion-Cain no longer elicits doubts about the potential success of her projects, which focus increasingly on interrelated businesses in the hospitality industry. All resulted from her adaptability in pivoting when the economy tanked, her ability in recognizing a gap in the market and her agility in filling that niche.
The Patio Group owns The Patio on Lamont in Pacific Beach and two other locations in Mission Hills and Liberty Station. The group also acquired Saska's in Mission Beach when the founding owners retired.
Champion-Cain has a network of about 10 pet-friendly up-scale Mission Beach vacation rentals. She also has a stake in two Luv Surf apparel companies, The Swell, a coffee company, Andrea's Truffles, her handmade chocolatier, and Luxury Farms, two specialty gourmet markets in Mission Hills and Coronado.