Biz Buzz: Downtown SLO welcoming two new restaurants

Fat Cats Café to open in the Baja Fresh spot; eatery and tavern planned for Broad Street

June 2, 2010 

Fat Cats Café, a local favorite in Avila Beach, is coming to downtown San Luis Obispo.

The eatery is to move into the space recently vacated by Baja Fresh Mexican Grill at 1085 S. Higuera St.

Rob Rossi, who owns the building, said there were several candidates, but Fat Cats was the best replacement for Baja Fresh.

The deal closed Thursday, and the restaurant should be operating within the next 14 to 21 days, owner Carl Barbettini said.

“It’s the right time to expand,” he said. “I believe the economy is on its way back up again.”

The new eatery will be a duplicate of the Avila Beach location, with some “minor adjustments,” Barbettini said.

“In San Luis Obispo, we will have more space for banquets and an opportunity to create more of an indoor-outdoor patio,” he said. “There’s also more traffic flow year-round in SLO than in Avila Beach. Our target will be the locals, merchants and Cal Poly students.”

While Barbettini said he is excited about the prospect of running two restaurants, he acknowledged that he’s not sure what the future holds for Fat Cats Café in Avila.

The lease on the restaurant at Port San Luis, open for the past 26 years, expires this year but has been extended until September 2011.

The Port San Luis Harbor District has issued a request for proposals for an operator at the site.

“It is an open and public process, and we hope we get good and competitive proposals from all sorts of people, including Carl,” said Steve McGrath, harbor manager.

Barbettini said he’s prepared to upgrade the cafe in Avila, which could include “more building on it.”

Right now, he’s focusing his energy on the new restaurant.

“We hope to go into SLO with the same enthusiasm,” he said.

— Julie Lynem

Croce’s out, Broad Street Tavern is in

Croce’s Pizza, a restaurant that opened in October in the Boston Bagel shop on Broad Street in downtown San Luis Obispo, has closed.

Sean Croce, who is now working for his father, Paul Croce, in a newly opened Enzo’s Eatery in Pismo Beach, said he was forced to close the business because he had a silent partner who did not fulfill his obligations.

The owners of the building on Broad Street sued and received a judgment in Superior Court this month against Croce for $12,000 in unpaid rent, according to court filings.

Croce had another Croce’s Pizza in Monterey, along with a lounge called Doc Ricketts Lab, but those businesses have also been shut down.

The San Luis Obispo building’s owners, the Fagnani family, say they will open a new restaurant called The Broad Street Tavern in the former Croce spot after they renovate and get a liquor license.

“We’re hoping to be an asset to the community,” Carolyn Fagnani said.

— Melanie Cleveland

• • •

French Hospital Medical Center recently received two industry awards. Blue Shield of California designated the hospital as a Blue Distinction Center for Cardiac Care, a distinction that applies to 433 centers nationwide.

The hospital was also honored by international research and consulting group Avatar International with the Emergency Award for 2009 and the Exceeding Patient Expectations 2009 Award.

— Julia Hickey

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