The Coast News Group
A long-time local restaurateur is proposing to replace Java Depot and Juicers with Distillery 101, a high-end restaurant and tequileria. Nearby neighbors say they support the eatery but fear the business may turn into a late-night bar, something the owner denies will happen. Courtesy photo
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Some residents concerned over proposed restaurant/bar

SOLANA BEACH — Residents who live near a proposed new restaurant and tequileria said they have mixed feelings about their potential new neighbor during the June 22 permit hearing.

“I have no problem with a restaurant,” said Lynn Zimet, who owns two homes on North Acacia Avenue, just west of the proposed Distillery 101. “My problem is with the tequila bar. I think the fact that they’re calling it a distillery emphasizes that there’s going to be a bar and it’s going to attract people who are coming to drink at a distillery, not coming for the natural foods necessarily.”

“I’m not opposed to the restaurant,” Greg Thomas said. “The name Distillery is, I think, a poor choice.”

Thomas said the nearby Tidewater Tavern is supposed to be a restaurant.

“But let’s face it, it’s a tavern,” he said, adding that the result is noise and trash. “I’m not opposed to a commercial venture. … I’d be happy to patronize the restaurant. But I would also like to enjoy my residence. … I am for the project with certain conditions.”

“I understand their concerns,” co-owner Bradley Evarts said. “But alcohol is not the primary focus. The primary focus is the food.”

He said he chose the Solana Beach location because he likes that section of North County and saw “a need for some newness there.”

“We’ve been on this for two years,” he said. “We came across the property just by looking at the beautiful improvements that the city did (along Highway 101)….

“We saw that as an opportunity for us to come in … raise the bar, bring in a quality, Napa-style restaurant with wonderful food, organic, health-conscious, fresh, repurposed, local, farm-to-table food,” Evarts added. “We’re all about cuisine.”

His wife, Julie, who designed the restaurant, said they were trying to capture the feeling of an old established restaurant rather than create “a typical urban thing.”

“We’re not actually doing a distillery,” she said. “We’re just creating an old atmosphere that kind of brings a whole ambiance to the restaurant that’s built around the idea of the time of distilleries.

“It’s really more about the food,” she said. “The name is just capturing a time.”

Distillery 101 would take over two spaces in The Boardwalk shopping center at 243 N. Coast Hwy. 101 currently occupied by Java Depot and Juicers.

Evarts will maintain the existing walkway that is now used for an outdoor patio and add gates on each side. He also plans to add 155 square feet from an adjacent office space for the kitchen, resulting in a 2,673-square-foot restaurant.

Distillery 101 will offer American Southwest food and include a full bar and tequileria featuring private-label handcrafted tequilas.

Evarts is not new to the restaurant business and has a notable track record in an industry known for first-year failures.

He and his partners owned Cilantros, a Southwestern restaurant and marketplace on Via de la Valle and El Camino Real, for 16 years and Epazote in the Del Mar Plaza for nearly 20. They also opened The Yellow Coyote in The Forum in Carlsbad but it closed in 2009 due to the failing economy, he said.

He said Cilantros and Epazote were located near residential areas.

“I had to deal with homeowner issues, concerns, compliances,” he said. “We never had a problem with Cilantros and Epazote and the homeowners.

“It’s not new to me,” he added. “We know how to acknowledge concerns of homeowners. We know how to work within our means and have rules and regulations.”

He said unlike some restaurateurs, he is a hands-on owner

“We require a high level of service, attention to detail and quality food,” Evarts said. “That’s what we want to bring. We feel there’s a lacking of it in North County. The bar needs to be raised.

“We did it when we opened Cilantros and Epazote … and we’re planning on doing it again,” he added. “We don’t want to just come in and just be another restaurant.”

If there is a problem he said it’s, “open doors all the time.”

“I’m there,” he said. “This is not my first rodeo with restaurants.”

Evarts agreed to continue the hearing until the July 13 council meeting. During that time he will meet with nearby homeowners to address their concerns and explain his plans to mitigate potential problems.

He already has plans to install organ pipe cactus along the west side of the building as a sound barrier. He said he will add a glass barrier if necessary.

Distillery 101 will not have live music “for my whole life,” he said, or a DJ. Background music will be easy listening, with no speakers on the outdoor patio. He said he would prefer to use a valet service to eliminate parking lot lingering and noise.

“I totally understand homeowners and I want to work with them,” he said. “We are here for the community 100 percent. … We don’t want riffraff going around in the neighborhood.

“We’re not going to throw a honky-tonk in there,” he added. “We’re going to build a beautiful exterior and a beautiful interior.

“We are a restaurant,” he said. “We’re epicureans. We’re culinary. We want to … provide wonderful food to the area.”

“We’re not looking to have a bar crowd come in,” Julie Evarts added. “I just want the residents to know and the city that we’re listening. … We want to do it right. We want to comply. … We want people to be happy.”