The Planning Commission is set to vote on the matter at its meeting next Thursday, August 1 and is expected to sign off on the permits. Owner Les Natali has said that the eatery, located at 531 Castro Street, could open within a matter of weeks once it receives official word that its permits have been granted.
“All work, other than the removal of the last retail space, has already been completed, and the Patio Cafe is prepared to open very soon after it receives approval,” wrote John Kevlin, with the law firm Reuben, Junius and Rose LLP, which specializes in land use issues, in a July 19 letter to planning commissioners.
As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a story earlier this year, Natali had planned to reopen the Patio, which closed in 2002, in May 2012. But a routine health department inquiry related to his request for an occupancy permit led to a determination that his planning permits were not in order.
At the crux of the snafu was a zoning prohibition placed on the eatery in 1992 that stipulated a seating capacity of 160 people. Any expansion required Natali to seek a new permit.
However, when he sought city approval in 2005 to expand the restaurant into several retail spaces fronting Castro Street, city planners at the time neglected to have Natali apply for the necessary permits in order to exceed the capacity cap. Due to the expansion the Patio Cafe’s occupancy will go from 160 people to 171.
The mistake was not caught until last spring. After first trying to fight the planning department’s determination he needed to apply for a conditional use permit, Natali relented and did so this year.
“Mr. Natali had no notice that there were any issues with the permit until after all work was completed,” wrote Kevlin, “and a Certificate of Final Completion was issued to him by” the city’s Department of Building Inspection.
“Mr. Natali is enthusiastic to finally reopen the Patio Cafe after years of construction,” added Kevlin. “This conditional use authorization would affirm his good faith investment in the Property and allow him to reopen and reactivate this important retail frontage on busy Castro Street.”
In June Natali told the B.A.R. that he was in talks with two interested parties to run the Patio Cafe – they would be required to keep the name – but did not disclose their identities. He expected to have an operator lined up prior to the planning commission hearing and would announce who the person is once the permit has been approved.
According to the staff report released today (Friday, July 26) the Patio’s bar and seating area fronting Castro Street will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week.
The back bar and outdoor seating area will be open from 11 a.m. to midnight seven days a week. Planning staff is requiring that the retractable roof over the eating area be closed nightly at 9 p.m.
The report estimates that approximately 10 percent of the restaurant operation will be devoted to take-out dining.
Planning staff reported they received no opposition to Natali’s permit request. It has broad neighborhood support from both residents and merchants.
Castro / Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association President Alan Beach-Nelson wrote in a letter of support that, “EVNA believes that the Patio’s return to the Castro after years will bring back an historic icon to the neighborhood. Furthermore, it will return a long vacant space to active use and enhance business activity.”
The planning commission meeting begins at noon in Room 400 at City Hall.