SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO : Depot Restaurant Lease Approval Due

The City Council is expected to ratify a seven-year lease today with a new operator for a restaurant and bar in the 94-year-old Capistrano Depot.

A proposal to the Community Redevelopment Agency from City Manager Stephen B. Julian would have Trackside Dining Inc. take over the business in the aging train station which the city bought two years ago for $910,000.

Terms of the proposed lease, which has two, seven-year renewable options, start at 4% of gross sales for the first year, with a minimum monthly rent of $3,500. Rent would increase in the second year to 5% of gross sales with a $6,000 monthly minimum. For the remaining five years, rent would be 6% of sales, with an $8,000 monthly minimum, according to Julian's report.

One of four finalists in the city's two-year search, Trackside Dining consists of a partnership between Utah restaurant manager Peter Henderson, and Orange County building contractors Eric Hooykaas and Stephen Dahle. The company owns a cafe in a former railroad station in Salt Lake City.

Henderson said that once the agreement is final, he would shut the depot in January for five months to refurbish the interior and to comply with a city- funded asbestos removal project.

"The thing that sold me to the property was the architecture," Henderson said of the quaint, Victorian-style brick station covered with thick bougainvillea bushes.

The station was built in 1895 by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Co. as a stop between San Diego and Los Angeles. It now serves several hundred Amtrak commuters on 16 daily trains along that same route.

In the 1960s, the little-used station was boarded up by the railroad. Brothers Jim and Pete Tyson bought it and opened a restaurant in 1975 and continued to operate it after the city bought it. Their contract expires Dec. 31.

"When I first started here as a busboy, we used to have to take a flag and run up and down the tracks for 250 yards to get the train to stop," said restaurant manager Jim Conter, a 14-year employee.

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