MBARI, looking to expand, may oust Phil’s Fish Market from its Moss Landing space.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Like the 533-pound halibut caught in Alaska seven years back, Phil’s Fish Market & Eatery in Moss Landing enjoys something approaching legendary status.
The homey restaurant, which Weekly readers voted the best in North County in 2010, has made Food Network cameos twice, including a victorious cioppino duel against celeb chef Bobby Flay.
It’s also a regular haunt for ocean scientists at the neighboring Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the market’s landlord for the past 28 years.
“When you go down to Phil’s, you’ll see half the people there are MBARI staff,” says Keith Raybould, the institute’s chief operating officer.
But Phil’s fans may have to make some adjustments beginning in 2015. That’s when the institute hopes to demolish the building housing the market, eventually replacing it with a new research and development facility.
MBARI’s proposal hit a roadblock Nov. 16, when – after hearing from almost a dozen Phil’s supporters – the North County Coastal Land Use Advisory Committee recommended denial to the Monterey County Planning Commission.
“It’s not just about Phil’s,” says market owner Phil DiGirolamo, who describes his restaurant as a strong draw for visitors. “The community depends on people coming into Moss Landing.”
Liz Gonzales, a county associate planner, notes that an earlier LUAC vote supported MBARI’s three-phase expansion, which officials are evaluating as part of the larger Moss Landing Community Plan. The advisory committee only revisited the issue because of a revision to another proposed MBARI building, she says.
Raybould’s disappointed by the LUAC’s about-face: “We changed nothing in terms of the plans, but this time they decided not to approve it – the only difference being, there were cameras in the room.”
Phil’s Fish Market leased a part of the main MBARI building on Sandholdt Road from 1982 to 1999, then moved to its current location next door. DiGirolamo recently exercised an option to extend his 10-year lease by five more years, giving him through 2015 in that spot.
MBARI officials told DiGirolamo about the institute’s expansion plans back in 2008, Raybould says: “It really should come as no surprise.” MBARI wants Phil’s to stay in Moss Landing, he adds, noting several options for a local move – including a North Harbor parcel slated for a restaurant and the Lemongrass Seafood building on Moss Landing Road, which he says is DiGirolamo’s property.
The Planning Commission isn’t expected to vote on the environmental impact report for at least a year.