The 107-year-old former City Hall building in downtown Gilroy hasn’t seen the last of its glory days – not if Milias Restaurant owners Adam Sanchez and Anne Zyburra have anything to do with it.
The business partners knew expansion was in the tea leaves when they restored Gilroy’s former premiere hospitality destination to its original state of classy western grandeur in 2011.
They just didn’t anticipate expansion would happen so soon.
“We’re doing well right now,” mused Sanchez. “If we’re going to be in competition with somebody, we might as well compete with ourselves.”
Sanchez and longtime business partner Zyburra are pouncing on what they see as a ripe opportunity since Lizarran Restaurant closed its doors on New Year’s Day 2012 after a two-year run.
Downtown Gilroy developer Gary Walton and brother Joe Walton co-owned and ran the Spanish tapas eatery, located in the iconic Old City Hall building at 7400 Monterey St., which Gary said ultimately succumbed to costly operation expenses and a gloomy economic outlook. Prior to Lizarran, the building was a Mexican restaraunt/bar Chips N’ Salsa that shut down in 2008 because of dwindling business and problems with rowdy customers.
Whoever hammers out a deal with the city regarding the fate of Old City Hall, Gary sends his sincere best wishes.
“Hopefully we’ll get into contract and close it, and it will be another good restaurant to come for downtown,” he said.
Lizarran’s lease with the city would have expired June 30, 2013, with another option for a five-year renewal. After putting roughly $300,000 worth of renovations into the building, Joe said they received an improvement credit from the city for $27,000. The credit was spread out over a period of 18 months, lowering the their monthly rent to $2,045. The building’s rent will go back up to $3,400 as of June 30, 2013.
While Sanchez began discussing lease agreement details with the city a few weeks ago, he isn’t ready to reveal specifics concerning contract negotiations, or what Gilroyans could be dining on if the new restaurant comes to fruition.
“I think it’s going well,” Sanchez said, of talks with the city. “I think between this week and next week we’ll know something more concrete.”
The pair already planned to establish additional gourmet hot spots in the span of their burgeoning culinary career, although they didn’t foresee it happening just a year after the Milias re-opened. Sanchez says the stars are lining up right now, however.
With Old City Hall conveniently located kitty corner from the Milias, “we couldn’t ask for a better scenario,” he said.
Not only that, but business is on the upswing – far better than expected, even – and Milias clientele are steady and loyal, Sanchez said. He and Zyburra initially projected a conservative average of 20 to 25 dinners a night when they opened in mid-June 2011. They now clock anywhere between 60 to 120 dinners a night depending on the weekday.
“It’s kind of the local hangout,” said Sanchez. “Everyone has embraced what we’re doing. People seem like family now. They’re not customers.”
Should talks with the city fall through for Sanchez and Zyburra, another local restaurateur has also thrown his hat in the ring. Bobby Beaudet, owner of Station 55 Bar & Grill on Fifth Street, is eyeing Old City Hall as an ideal venue that would allow him to meet an ongoing demand for catering and private parties. Beaudet said he would allow the city to use the building free of charge as a social hub for fundraisers and special events.
“It is what it is,” he said. “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.”
As for the risks associated with opening a new business in the current economic landscape, “we’re always a little wary,” Sanchez admitted. “But we’re going to make downtown a destination with both of those spots.”