National City’s new downtown food court is buzzing every day of the week. People sip coffee while browsing their laptops in the morning, coworkers chat about the day at lunch, and families break bread for dinner at long, wooden tables.
Since it opened late last year, it’s been on Market 8pearl transformed a once burned-out corner into a community gathering space. The owners now want to add to the experience with live entertainment and new alcohol sales.
Many residents are excited about the additions. Others worry that existing difficulties, such as finding street parking, will only get worse.
Joel Tubao, who owns the Market and runs it with his family, asked the city for permission to make these business changes.
He received it last week when it unanimously endorsed the City Council’s proposals on certain conditions. The council’s vote came after hearing about three dozen public comments with differing views.
“Overall (the Market) has been a real catalyst for 8.pearl The street is for our downtown,” said Deputy Mayor Marcus Bush. “This space has truly become a public gathering space and community space.”
Council members approved changes to the workplace’s conditional occupancy permit, allowing live performances, and extending working hours on the site at 8am.pearl Street and Avenue A.
The changes mean the dining room can now host live entertainment, including bands, karaoke or DJs, from 8am to 1am each day, and sell craft beer and wine until midnight. Prior to approval, the business could only own a solo entertainer and sell beers until 10 p.m. from Novo Brazil, the dining hall’s sole beer vendor. surrounded and sells alcohol to go.
Some residents fear long working hours and continued alcohol sales are “a recipe for trouble,” said Bill McColl.
Others are concerned about possible noise disturbances and drinking on the front porch. Tubao said he didn’t want to turn the workplace into a nightclub or a place where “a bunch of idiots could just come and party and have a lot of drinks.”
“What we want to do is add more value to the community. You can sit there and enjoy the community with a nice glass of wine or craft beer,” he said, adding that he occasionally dreams of jazz bands, also hosting yoga on the patio and offering kombucha.
Dominic Hernandez, chef at one of the dining hall’s 12 vendors, said offering a place for open mic nights would enhance the venue as a meeting space for people of different interests and backgrounds.
Councilor Ron Morrison made several recommendations that the rest of the council approved. He called for the cessation of alcohol sales at midnight instead of 1 a.m. and limiting instant beer to four packs of 16-ounce cans.
One of the most pressing concerns for several residents, business owners, and some councillors was parking. Since the market opened, street parking on and around A Street has been challenging as there is no parking lot in the cafeteria and some neighboring businesses.
David Ramos, who lives near the food court on A Avenue, said he opposes the permit changes because late hours would mean more customers and fewer parking spaces.
“I’m coming home and the first thing I have to do is wait outside my house just to find a parking space, and so do every of my neighbors,” she said.
While the Market isn’t required to offer parking to customers, Tubao said it spoke to Southwestern College about allowing customers to park in parking complexes at National City Avenue and 8.pearl Street.
Morrison highlighted the need for more parking spaces or better ways to circulate traffic if longer opening hours cause customers to stay on premises longer. He suggested adding metered parking to the area. The city is currently preparing a park management plan and a pilot program that will add meters to several downtown streets.
Bush said that “parking will definitely be difficult” wherever congestion increases, such as downtown, where several new small businesses are located, and Parco, a 127-unit mixed-use residential and commercial building located across from the food court.
Jose Rivas, who works at the Market and lives on A Avenue, said the recent growth in his neighborhood and the cafeteria as an anchor has given life to what was once a “ghost town.”