Seating at Tabu restaurant on South Coast Highway will become more spacious.
The City Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday in favor of the expansion of the popular eatery into vacated, adjacent, retail space, over the objections of residential neighbors.
“I like Tabu very much, but if they want to stay in the neighborhood, it should remain a small boutique restaurant,” said Terry Road resident Bonnie Elder.
Elder appealed the Planning Commission’s 3-2 approval of the proposed expansion in square footage with wine and beer service and seating increased, while requiring only one new, joint-use, on-site parking space.
“There is not enough parking for residents, let alone customers,” neighbor Kimberly Meredith said. “To add more seats just doesn’t make sense.”
Project architect Horst Noppenberger said Tabu owner Nancy Wilhelm has arranged for customers from outside Laguna to be shuttled from their hotels to the restaurant and will post signs asking customers not to park on residential streets. Employees are encouraged to car pool.
Seating was limited by the council to 56, 15 more than allowed in current space. However, the actual gain is not as dramatic as the numbers indicate. Until recently Tabu has provided seating for 10 food and beverage customers in a patio area that fronts the restaurant, albeit unpermitted. Those seats were prohibited by the council.
“The focus of the application is to gain additional space for a more efficient operation,” Noppenberger said.
Forty-seven conditions were attached to the use permit, including a review after six months under the new terms. A review is automatic if anyone with standing files a legitimate complaint or violations of the permit are documented.
Mayor Pro Tem Jane Egly, who voted against the proposed project, expressed anger at the restaurant’s violations of the city’s permit in the past and didn’t expect the conditions to be enforced. She said allowing the expansion rewarded a business that broke the rules.
Planning Commissioners Norm Grossman and Rob Zur Schmiede opposed the project, citing the exacerbation of parking difficulty.