On the Horizon: Restaurant & Retail NewsMar 30, 2022 12:55PM ● By Harper Klein
On the Agenda: PODS (Permanent Outdoor Dining Structures)
As we reported in January, when it comes to dining in the street, Walnut Creek continues to struggle with a permanent policy. At the March 15 council meeting, the city’s economic development team presented ways to integrate permanent structures into the streetscape.
Key takeaways included: establishing design standards, limiting POD space to the area directly in front of the restaurant, charging restaurants for use of public parking spaces, and potentially opening Bonanza Street to two-way traffic, while keeping Lincoln Avenue (between Main & Broadway) closed permanently.
"The city is firmly committed to outdoor dining in Walnut Creek and I'm glad we acted quickly to save our restaurant sector," said Mayor Matt Francois. "But we want diners to be safe from cars, and going forward, we would like to see a better aesthetic that blends with our streetscapes and achieves the right balance with other businesses."
Since 2020 when popups first appeared on city streets, restaurants have used public parking spaces at no cost, but that policy is likely to change. "There are approximately 100 downtown parking spaces being used by private businesses that pre-covid generated $7,000 per year in revenue. We estimate the loss to be somewhere between $500K-$1 million to the downtown parking fund," said Francois during the Walnut Creek Chamber's State of the City forum.
Complicating the process further is the announcement from EBMUD that water pipes on Locust Street- dating back to the 1950s- require replacement. The project is expected to begin in January 2023 and extend from Mt. Diablo to Civic. As a result, the city is expected to announce an extension of the current outdoor dining policies through December 2022. Stay tuned.
Possibly one of the hottest Walnut Creek restaurant openings—in more ways than one—spicy fried chicken sandwiches are the centerpiece at World Famous Hot Boys. Fresh Halal chicken filets are battered and slathered in five levels of heat before fried and stuffed on a bun with pickles and sauce. Sides include fries, beans, and mac n’ cheese. While waiting to devour Yelp’s #1 fried chicken sando, check out Berk Visual’s “Flowers for Walnut Creek” graffiti art.
Restaurateur JB Balingit, who co-owns Vic’s in Martinez and The Hideout in Lafayette, has brought his newest Filipino-inspired fast-casual concept, Guava Island Eats to 1506 N. Main Street, where you’ll find a lengthy list of power smoothies, creamy shakes, and island bowls.
Named one of the “most anticipated spring restaurant openings in the Bay Area” by the San Francisco Chronicle, Chef Nora Haron is bringing SanDai, a modern Indonesian restaurant and kopi bar to Walnut Creek in the former Prima Ristorante space.
enduring popularity of bagels and the limited number of bakeries in town, we
were surprised to find Noah’s Bagels on Mt. Diablo “temporarily closed.”
Meanwhile, 54 Mint Forno Italiano is closing on March 27 for a major remodel. When the Italian bistro reopens next month, look for an expanded menu and full-bar. Buon Vino closed its Locust Street tasting room this week, but owner Dan Batlin says he is actively negotiating new real estate space.
Nail shaping and callus scraping services are back at Bollinger Nails. After a two-year hiatus, the popular polish spot reopened at 1525 Locust Street. While Walnut Creek has no shortage of hair salons and stylists, San Jose’s chic Limon Salon is the latest beauty entrant, opening in a new contemporary space in The Heritage Building on Locust Street this spring.
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