The restaurant group that runs The Prado in Balboa Park and Corvette Diner in Liberty Station may operate the new Pier South hotel’s restaurant, it was learned this week.
Pacifica Companies made the announcement of the possible involvement of the Cohn Restaurant Group at a City Council meeting Wednesday.
Cohn operates 15 restaurants around Southern California, including the Gaslamp Strip Club and 100 Wines. Pacifica hopes to wrap up a contract by the end of the week, said Director of Planning Allison Rolfe.
Plans for the new restaurant and hotel were discussed with a crowd of about 60 members of the community and business owners Thursday morning at an Imperial Beach Chamber of Commerce networking breakfast.
The hotel is now scheduled to open in late spring, possibly May, but the public can expect to see major portions of the hotel begin to come to life in the coming weeks and months, said Project Manager Vikram Sood.
The hotel will open gradually with 20 or 30 rooms at first, Sood said.
A job line has been established for people interested in working at the hotel. Call 619-296-9000 ext. 247 for more information.
Pacifica will start to take applications in April for about 55 available positions. A job fair will be held but has not yet been scheduled. Hourly positions will be hired 30 days prior to opening, Rolfe said.
A website for the hotel, which will include a list of jobs and job descriptions, is scheduled to launch next month.
A sales manager and interim general manager have been hired. A general manager will be hired in March.
Reservations can be made 30 days prior to opening.
A model room will be open for private tours in March.
Room rates will be fixed in March, and are expected to start at $189 a room.
“We’re not going to charge $79 a room,” Sood said. “That’s not going to work."
The general manager position is not being advertised, but is important to the hotel’s overall success, Sood said. The manager will be an ambassador to the hotel and Imperial Beach, he said, and should be someone who wants to help create vibrant life at the hotel.
“We’re looking for someone with a cruise director type of personality, not just someone who is going to sit in their office and count beans,” he said.
Formal events like quinceañeras and particularly weddings may be a big part of hotel business, Sood said.
“Weddings for us, we feel that’s going to be a strong, strong business,” he said, but the hotel is not currently taking any wedding bookings.
To market the hotel, Pacifica will target ecotourists, bicyclists and other groups known for an active lifestyle. A partnership with the Navy is currently being explored, Sood said. Pacifica will look for clientele from San Diego but also Orange County, the San Francisco Bay area, Arizona and Mexico.
To match that clientele, people should expect an upscale but approachable environment.
“Luxury’s a bad term. It’s upscale, it’s unique, it’s relevant, and it’s genuine. Those are our four pillars right now,” he said. “Any partner we have has to represent those four pillars. We don’t want a fancy experience. We want people in their shorts going to the estuary. We want people ready to go for a bike ride on the [Bayshore] Bikeway.”
Music festivals in Pier Plaza, triathlon camps, nature walks, events that partner with the Farmers Market or have a Baja cuisine or Baja wine region focus are all possibilities, Sood said.
Judy Sisson, owner of IB Trophies and Awards, said she wants to know some members of the community are able to give insight on the real Imperial Beach before a marketing campaign begins.
“We just want to know that we’re respected as citizens and that we have a say in maybe a few things,” Sisson told Sood during a Q&A session following his presentation.
“So it would really be nice to know that not just a couple of people have an input on how you portray our city to be. And there may be a few things that we know as locals that you guys haven’t seen yet that may be a pretty place to go.”
For example, she said, good places to take a walk, or little local secrets like old historic photos on the wall at Ye Olde Plank Inn.
Sood said he wants the community to be a part of the hotel.
“Please know that if we need something, we’re going to look to you. And if we need a resource, we’re going to look local. That’s not even a question at all,” he said.
Rolfe told the City Council on Wednesday that Pacifica will look for local employees for several reasons but in part to satisfy requirements of a tax credit.
Angela Frank of Advance Realty moved to Imperial Beach from San Francisco’s Mission District. She thinks Imperial Beach is “a hidden gem” that most people don’t know all too well.
Those who do know IB may still have a bad perception of the area, but things have changed a lot for the better since she came here two decades ago, she said.
She has heard people speculate the hotel could fail, but she thinks it can succeed and even benefit waterfront property value, especially if Pacifica can develop a partnership with the Navy.
“I think it’s good they’re going to be partnering with the Navy cause I was concerned with them being able to keep those rooms full,” she said.
Economic turmoil delayed construction of Pier South after approval was granted in 2008, Rolfe said. After the Imperial Beach Redevelopment Agency purchased the hotel property for $7 million and sold it back to Pacifica for $1, the project started to move forward again. Seacoast Inn was demolished in fall 2010.
Since the hotel’s foundation was poured and construction started in 2011, building a parking structure below sea level has been like construction “in a big, giant bath tub” caused delay. A Marriott Autograph Collection partnership has also caused delay.
To read more about the hotel, see this IB Patch Topic page.