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Anthony's Could Revamp--Or Be Replaced

Anthony's on The Embarcadero's lease is soon up, and the Port of San Diego is considering other restaurant options.

A waterfront mecca for fish and prime views is on the market in San Diego.

The Port of San Diego will soon send out an official Request For Proposals (RFP) for the 31,608-square-foot restaurant and event space that Anthony's has occupied along North Harbor Drive for the past 60 years. As is, the Port found that Anthony's current operations "do not qualify as a tenant in good standing," according to minutes from a Port meeting May 12.

The usual local suspects (Cohn Restaurant GroupConsortium Holdings) could submit a bid for their next money-making venture there, but Anthony's is already making a play to stay put by proposing to pour $9.5 million into a vast revamp.

A new partnership with The Fish Market would spawn a new operation called Harbor and Ash, serving seafood-centric artisanal plates.

Anthony's tapped architecture firm Robinson Brown to outline design improvements, which call for floor to ceiling glass with new canopy structures and skylights and garage-style doors opening onto the bay; a large in-the-round bar, outdoor lounge area with fire pit and glass floor to view the water below; a removed ceiling to expose existing wood beams; and a video art wall on the street side.

The building, last dramatically renovated in 1965, includes Anthony's Fish Grotto, Fishette and Star of the Sea Room.

With the lengthy lease finally coming up, Port spokeswoman Tanya Castaneda told Eater "this is a very rare opportunity to re-look at the site." The Port wants to move as fast as possible via a competitive process so that redevelopment can start as soon as the 52-year lease is up on Jan. 31 2017, with the 60-day RFP going out May 20, she says.

The board thought Anthony's proposal was "very good," says Castaneda, and the restaurant group will have the opportunity to submit another alongside competitors.

There's already a hint as to one rival that might be swimming up; during the public comments portion of the Port meeting, a rep from the Morton restaurant family (Miguel's CocinaBrigantine) advocated for a competitive process.

The board wants staff to come forward with proposals of recommendation for their August 11 meeting.

According to a study by real estate firm JLL, Anthony's space may best be suited to three separate restaurant operations, averaging about 7,500 square feet each, with revenues of $857 per square foot a year and rents above $40 per square foot per year. The study compares C Level/Island Prime's high revenues ($1,220) and rent ($45) per square foot to Anthony's projected figures of $948 and $32, respectively.

On average, successful coastal restaurants seat 215, notes JLL.

"Typically a lot of restaurants successful on the water are smaller today then when this opened," says Castaneda.

Each bidding team must come armed with the ability to finance, design, construct, brand and operate, she says. The last restaurant-related RFP from the Port awarded Carnitas' Snack Shack the waterfront cafe space that was up for grabs in the North Embarcadero, she says, which got at least four solid proposals. Among the criteria: high volume in a smaller space. Construction hasn't started yet, she adds.

UPDATE: Local restaurant architect Paul Basile tells Eater he's "extremely excited" about the prospect of something activating that area of The Embarcadero, which he calls "probably the most prime real estate for a restaurant in San Diego." He'd like to see the site developed into four separate restaurants with an outdoor area for the public in between.

His San Diego-based firm BASILE Studio just turned 20 and has been teaming up with CH Projects since 2008.

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