Almanac

News - February 19, 2014

BBC renovation breezes through gauntlet

by Sandy Brundage

Some may have understandably thought this day would never come: the Menlo Park Planning Commission voiced unanimous approval for a major project in about 30 minutes.

The project, restaurateur Rob Fischer's remake of the historic BBC at 1090 El Camino Real, has raised the bar "really high" in terms of what the commission's looking for, according to chair John Kadvany.

"It shows you how quickly projects can get through Menlo Park when the applicant does such a great job of designing the project," Mr. Kadvany noted during the Feb. 10 meeting.

Mr. Fischer plans to open a three-floor restaurant, including a rooftop deck and outdoor dining on the ground floor, that will preserve the historic exterior brick architecture of the city landmark apart from moving the entrance to Santa Cruz Avenue and adding an exterior staircase. Parking will be provided via the 275-space underground garage shared with other Menlo Center businesses.

But Mr. Fischer will not preserve one aspect of the BBC's history — its reputation as a rowdy, late-night hotspot for trouble.

"We're a very solid company," he told the commission. "... a kind of a no-nonsense company. I won't put up with what they did before at the BBC. That's totally unacceptable to me. ... I can't even fathom doing what someone did in that restaurant, it's appalling."

Mr. Fischer's reputation preceded him and appeared to ease the path toward project approval, as the commissioners as well as public supporters pointed out his success with the Palo Alto Creamery, Reposado and, in Mountain View, Gravity and Scratch.

What he hopes to bring to Menlo Park, he said, is a one-of-a-kind restaurant people will be proud to go to.

Although the restaurant would be open seven days a week from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., with on-site alcohol sales and background music, Mr. Fischer said he "can't stress enough that noise in our operations isn't a factor."

He has turned down requests to bring live music to his other restaurants, he said, and has no plans to change that policy.

Members of the public, including councilmen Peter Ohtaki and Ray Mueller and Chamber of Commerce CEO Fran Dehn told the commission they couldn't wait to see the new restaurant open.

The commissioners followed suit before voting 6-0, with Henry Riggs absent, to approve the plans.

"Our nickname of 'Menlo Dark' is sometimes well deserved," Commissioner Katie Ferrick quipped. "I appreciate you being willing to take a chance on turning the lights on."

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