New Salinas club complex is bucking the odds in a high-end gamble.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
“Within the next three to five years, Salinas is going to be a booming place,” says Jesse Kehoe as he walks through the 28,600-square-foot expanse of a planned nightclub-restaurant in the old Wells Fargo Bank building at 201 S. Main St. in Oldtown Salinas.
Kehoe is vice president of West Coast operations at Berkley, Inc., a development company that’s had its name attached to past large-scale concepts in Oldtown. A few years ago, Berkley’s much-touted plans to build a hotel in the parking lot in front of the Steinbeck Center famously fell through.
But despite the company’s checkered history in Salinas and the troubled economy, the developers say this time is different.
Berkley President Gerry Kehoe said in an e-mail that this project will succeed because it’s “smaller in scale” than previous undertakings and the property was “acquired from 100-percent internal sources without any bank loans.”
Demolition began on the estimated $5 million project eight months ago to transform the three-floor building – constructed in 1915 – into two nightclubs, two restaurants and seven bars, with a 1,442-person total capacity.
Kehoe says the grand room entry will lead into a high-end Italian restaurant; at the back end of the building, his team envisions a tapas bar.
The parking lot to the right of the building, already in the middle of excavation, is slated to change into a patio bar and an outdoor coffee shop with two rain forest marble waterfalls, koi ponds, Roman columns and Tahoe red stone.
On the ground floor, former home to the bank vault, Kehoe pictures 60-inch plasma televisions lining the walls in a lounge area with couches. It’s another design concept, though, that has locals quivering: a vibrating dance floor. City-themed, private VIP spaces linger nearby; on the third floor, the function, layout and size will be similar to the ground floor, including a second vibrating dance floor.
Jesse Kehoe says he plans to keep the new establishment open 24 hours on weekends. To address security issues, patrons will be required to swipe IDs and give fingerprints to be stored in a database, Kehoe says, adding that there will be a 50 to 80 member security detail.
“THIS PROJECT WILL CREATE JOBS AND LIVEN UP THE NIGHTLIFE.”
Though the building was earthquake retrofitted in 1995, there were still some kinks pointed out by Dennis Richardson, deputy director of permit services.
“I think we have it sorted out; our engineers have worked with [city] engineers to make it completely code compliant and make it as earthquake proof as possible,” Kehoe says.
“The city worked very close with [Kehoe] and most issues are worked out,” says Mayor Dennis Donohue, who’s met several times with Kehoe. “This project will create jobs and liven up the nightlife; there’s a market for it with regional appeal.”
Kehoe aims for a March 2011 opening, but says it probably won’t realistically open until next May.
A couple of blocks away, Berkley has plans for another ambitious development at the former Dick Bruhn Men’s Store: a swanky restaurant and night club featuring large-scale props, including a Porsche once owned by James Dean and John Steinbeck’s 70-foot boat floating in an indoor moat The third floor will house a 25-room boutique hotel.
Kehoe says construction on the former Dick Bruhn building will most likely begin a couple of months before the Wells Fargo project is complete.