Many restaurateurs looking to open in Laguna Beach encounter two questions: Where are patrons going to park and how does one keep noise and traffic at bay to keep nearby residents happy?
The first question dominated much of City Council discussion Tuesday. And even though council members didn't find it answered to their satisfaction, they gave conditional approval to The Drake Restaurant at 2894 S. Coast Hwy., a site formerly occupied by Tabu Grill, and a requested expansion area and valet lot.
Concerns about too many cars lining up, too few attendants to handle them and impeded traffic flow in and out of a private lot at 2880 S. Coast Hwy. led the council to order a traffic study and a more detailed valet plan than the one presented by the applicant, Alec Glasser.
"There are some places [in Laguna] where you can back a car up, jump out, get another car, back it up and pull the car up where you want; that is not a possibility here," Mayor Toni Iseman said.
This was the second time the council had considered Glasser's plan for an 89-seat restaurant, 24 seats of which would come from an expansion into an adjacent office suite and nine from an outdoor area.
The council's vote Tuesday included the expansion in concept, pending the traffic and valet studies. Glasser had appealed the Planning Commission's decision in December to approve the restaurant but without his requested added space and off-site valet parking.
The proposed expansion into the office space triggered the look at other parking options to meet the city's requirement for parking spaces, which is related to the type of business and its square footage.
The city's formula mandates that the restaurant, as is, have 11 parking spaces — five on-site and six off-site.
The expansion would require nine additional spaces for a total of 20, but Drake's plan provides for 30 overall, Tuchscher said.
"If we can't valet that parking, we'd be happy to close the expanded area," Monica Tuchscher, who represented Glasser, told the council.
Drake bills itself as a "neighborhood gathering place" offering more affordable fare than its predecessor while providing blues, jazz and soul music. It would serve appetizers, pasta, fish, steaks and lamb, according to the staff report.
"I have no problem with the restaurant being there," resident Sandi Cain said. "The big problem is with safety on [South Coast Highway] and Nyes Place."
As for people seeking valet service, Cain added: "Do you think they are going to wait there? No, they are going to go into the neighborhood."
Tuchscher said Wednesday that Drake's owner must pay for the traffic study and valet reports.
"We want to ensure the council and neighborhood that this will be a safe operation." Tuchscher said.