Santa Ana Council Approves Lounge for Artists District

Times Staff Writer

Talk about shaking things up.

After more than 20 years without approving a bar that doesn't serve food, Santa Ana has given its OK to a martini lounge.

And more telling to some, the City Council's 5-2 vote shows the city's commitment to its nascent artists village where residents of newly built lofts, gallery operators and restaurant owners are clamoring for foot traffic.

"We have offered the urban lifestyle to folks buying lofts and they are expecting to be able to walk to things," said Councilwoman Lisa Bist. "We have to stop being afraid to be a downtown and offer things that they get in Costa Mesa and Fullerton."

To that end, the City Council on Monday gave its approval to Jon Reiser to open the 215 Lounge, named for its address on North Broadway. Once he secures a liquor license, he plans to specialize in martinis, as well as offer beer, wine and mixed drinks in the Santora Building, the anchor of the arts district that includes galleries, shops and restaurants.

About 60 residential lofts have been built nearby and more than 500 are planned or under construction. The district runs from 1st and 4th streets and from Broadway to Spurgeon Street.

Reiser hopes to generate an upscale customer base.

"This is not going to be your neighborhood dive bar. It will be a cocktail lounge and an art gallery," said Reiser, 31, owner of Costa Mesa-based Dataverse, which creates computer software. On Wednesday, Reiser lost a Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control lottery for a liquor license, but said he can buy one.

That will be more expensive and will take more time, "but there are dozens available," he said. He hopes to open the lounge in March.

Councilman Jose Solorio, who opposed the lounge along with Councilwoman Alberta Christy, said he thinks Reiser should offer food to appeal to a larger customer base and offer "a healthier approach."

Residents say the lounge suits their neighborhood.

"We have to have this. I bought a place in downtown Santa Ana not because of what is there, but because of what could, hopefully, be there in the future," said Brian Konoske, a professional photographer and loft resident. "We all have to drive to Costa Mesa for a cool bar. This is something needed if we want to bring people down here."

Reiser's landlord, Mike Harrah, who opened Original Mike's, a vintage car-themed restaurant, said the approval "is one tiny step toward improving the atmosphere in the downtown."

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