Shirley's Bagels wants to move to a sweeter spot, but parking is an issue

Parking requirements in Laguna Beach may determine whether a longtime breakfast-and-lunch spot can move from one location in The Plaza shopping center to another.

Shirley's Bagels has operated on the first floor of the two-story complex at 303 Broadway St. for more than 20 years. Management wants to move into another first-floor space, last occupied by Casey's Cupcakes until it closed in February.

"It would be a bigger space and get the street exposure," said Carlos Perez, a partner in Costa Mesa-based Shirley's, which also has a store in Newport Beach.

A larger shop, however, comes with greater city parking requirements — particularly when food preparation is done on site.

Shirley's first-floor Laguna suite in The Plaza covers 590 square feet of gross area, Perez said.

The desired location is nearly double the size — 931 square feet of gross area — with a window facing Ocean Avenue.

The Plaza management has not yet determined how many additional parking spaces Shirley's would need to make the move.

A consultant is conducting a parking study, to be paid for by Shirley's, that will identify each tenant's supply of spaces and the times they are occupied, city Planning Manager Ann Larson said.

The goal is to determine whether Shirley's could use other businesses' spaces during off-hours.

As a food-service establishment, Shirley's needs to provide one parking space for every 100 square feet of gross floor area, or one spot for every three seats, whichever ratio provides the greater number of parking spaces, according to the municipal code.

The city considered Casey's a retail outlet. Staff made the cupcakes off-site and delivered them to the Laguna Beach store, Larson said.

Retail stores require one parking space for every 250 square feet of gross floor area, according to the city code, so Casey's didn't need as many spaces as a typical food-service business.

Shirley's, which serves bagel sandwiches, salads and espresso, doesn't do any high-level cooking on site. It has toaster ovens and microwaves for heating, and employees assemble salads and sandwiches, Perez said.

Bagels are made at the Costa Mesa store.

But Larson said there are differences between Shirley's and Casey's.

"Casey's didn't make drinks, had no tables or chairs," Larson said. "Shirley's uses the microwave to cook, serves salads and prepares sandwiches. Nothing is pre-packaged. There is a difference, and the parking is different."

That said, Larson explained, the city is trying to find a solution.

"We're trying to help them, but it takes time," she said. "Parking is tight. [The consultant] is going to have to crunch numbers and figure out what spaces are being used and at what time."

Perez said progress has been made, and the company looks forward to continuing to serve the community — but from a larger space.

"Laguna Beach High School students line up out the door," Perez said about the draw from the nearby campus.

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