Restaurant News & Reviews

New upscale bar with wood-fired dishes planned for SLO’s south side

A new eatery and cocktail bar with wood-fired oven dishes is coming to San Luis Obispo’s Laurel Lane Shopping Plaza.

The owners of The Naked Fish restaurant in Paso Robles currently are planning tenant improvements for The Woods neighborhood restaurant and bar on a 3,100-square-foot space, with hopes to open in January or February.

They spent around $285,000 on a liquor license to be able to to serve a wide range of cocktails and “shared foods” including appetizers, pizzas, open-faced sandwiches and more, co-owner Daniel Cardinale said.

Cardinale, who runs the business with partner Karen Staeheli, described The Woods as a neighborhood bar, eatery and lounge, occupying the last of the available tenant spaces in the plaza where Efren’s Mexican restaurant and Lucy’s Coffee Co. are located nearby.

An outside shot of the Laurel Lane space where a new bar and lounge called The Woods is planned for the south end of San Luis Obispo. Nick Wilson

“This will be the only place really you can buy drinks at a bar on this side of town,” Cardinale said. “We think it will be a local hangout and a place for many locals and tourists who don’t want to go downtown.”

Months ago, Cardinale said he stopped off at the Spirit of San Luis at the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport before a flight and found the restaurant’s bar was packed, learning from customers that options for bars are limited on SLO’s south end.

“A light turned on that this side of SLO could be a really good place for a new bar,” Cardinale said. “We’re applying to stay open until 11 p.m. or midnight.”

Mixed drinks at The Woods will be in the $12 to $13 range, with a “creative bar program” and an experienced bar manager.

“We haven’t finalized the drink menu yet,” Cardinale said.

The plaza has more than 100 parking spaces, Cardinale said, and neighboring businesses will close earlier than The Woods — though the business still must receive city approval. But Cardinale expects to have available parking at all hours the business is open.

An outside shot of the Laurel Lane space where a new bar and lounge called The Woods is planned for the south end of San Luis Obispo. Nick Wilson

Cardinale said he bought his liquor license from Applebee’s, which required a loan and confidence the price won’t impede business success.

“Having one is so important,” he said of the liquor license. “And I know to do this, we had to bite the bullet. I had to borrow money and make things work, but if you don’t believe in yourself, there’s no point in doing this.”

The business is currently in the planning process to complete numerous tenant improvements, with a goal of starting construction within a few weeks, working “essentially from scratch.”

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Daniel Cardinale, co-owner of Naked Fish Sushi. Cardinale and his business partner, Karen Staeheli, are planning to open The Woods in SLO’s Laurel Lane Shopping Plaza. Joe Johnston

While the business operates a Paso Robles restaurant, the former Naked Fish restaurant in downtown San Luis Obispo closed last year, with Cardinale citing high rents and stagnant business in a changing downtown atmosphere.

Cardinale said his company paid $12,000 per month in rent in downtown SLO, where the lease recently expired after five years.

Cardinale said the rent at Laurel Lane is “more affordable,” and the tenant improvements he is making have been worked into the deal.

The owners also run a Naked Fish sushi restaurant in Lake Tahoe.

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.