Business / Economy

Goodbye Houligans, hello Starbucks

Drive-thru cafe expected to open next summer on San Felipe Road.
Houligans will be demolished in early 2021. Photo by John Chadwell.
Houligans will be demolished in early 2021. Photo by John Chadwell.

On Aug. 27, the Hollister Planning Commission approved a site and architectural application from Engstrom Properties, Inc., to demolish the existing 3,344 square-foot Houligans Restaurant—located on a 32,422-square-foot lot at 111 San Felipe Road in the Northgate Way Zoning District—and to construct a new 2,200-square-foot Starbucks drive-thru cafe with outdoor seating.

The cafe will be the first business in Hollister designed to take COVID-19 pandemic restrictions into consideration for social distancing in its interior design to “keep associates and customers safe,” said Mark Engstrom, president of Engstrom Properties and owner of the cafe.

The new Starbucks location will operate seven days a week, from 3:30 a.m. to midnight. There will be a 12-foot drive-thru lane that will accommodate up to 10 vehicles, which exceeds the required minimum of six vehicles. Engstrom told BenitoLink the number of employees will be between 15 and 20. The business will typically have four employees per shift during normal hours and up to seven during peak hours. There will be 31 parking spaces, two of which will be for bicycles.

Planning Commissioner David Huboi, who is an architect, questioned the site’s driving circulation pattern. He wondered how the site’s entry points were determined when the lot that surrounds it on three sides does not have a master plan yet. He wanted to know how a future development would be affected.

The city’s planning staff told him that a traffic study had been conducted to take into account easements. Huboi thought there may be a need to negotiate access points with the landowner of the lot to the east of the site.

Lee Shahinian, the managing owner of the two parcels adjacent to the site where the cafe will be built, said he too was concerned about the entrances that would cross his property. He said it is unknown what developers may want to do on the property, which is currently on the market.

“We’ve been advised to have a legal review about easements, and that is in process,” Shahinian said. “Nothing has been decided about those easements. We’ve been promised some information, but it has not yet appeared. We wonder what are the future implications for our property. One concern is if they are not compatible with a future development, would we be able to set aside those easements? And would the city approve setting them aside?”

Development Services Director Bryan Swanson answered, “In a perfect world, we wouldn’t want people to go through Starbucks into your property. We would want to make sure that your property is safe for residents for emergency services.”

Swanson added, “Starbucks is at the table here and we need to accommodate how to access that property. We’ve gone above and beyond to make sure that other access points are there for your property. At this point, we’re doing everything we can for Starbucks. When your property comes to the table, we’ll make sure you have those access points that your property needs.”

Swanson described Shahinian’s property as “the unknown” in trying to determine easements and, for the time being, the planning department was trying its best to work with Starbucks. 

This did not sit well with Shahinian.

“Can I just get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to my question,” he demanded. “If those easements are not compatible with our development plans can they be abandoned without any negative consequences for us?”

Swanson began to answer, “We’ve talked to you multiple times leading up to this meeting—” when Shahinian interrupted and asked for one of the commissioners to chime in. Huboi said since he brought it up, he would try. However his response, as well as other comments, were unintelligible because of a poor Zoom connection. The resolution was approved, despite Shahinian’s objections.

Engstrom told BenitoLink that Houligans will be razed in early 2021 and construction on the Starbucks will begin immediately afterward, with opening scheduled for the summer.

Jill Goodman, a 52-year-old retired school teacher, managed Houligans—formerly Jerry’s of Hollister and before that just Jerry’s—since 2007. Along the way, she had two partners, Matt Hart, who had been the manager for 10 years, and then Mario Huizar, who was also the cook.

Goodwin’s mother owned the franchise. Goodwin said she became involved when there were some issues with the franchise owner Sunwest Restaurant Concepts (which also owns the Smashburger franchise). She and Hart managed the restaurant, then called Jerry’s of Hollister, to differentiate it from the Jerry’s franchise. Because of further legal issues she and Huizar changed the name to Houligans in 2018.

The name, interestingly enough, came from a cheeseburger with a side order of grilled cheese that her son designed in 2012, and because of its massiveness that six pieces of bacon and six slices of cheese, he called it a Houligan. 

Goodwin lives in San Jose and has commuted to Hollister ever since taking over managing the restaurant. Along with suffering from multiple sclerosis, the commute became too much.

“Last summer I told my mom I couldn’t do it anymore,” she said. “It was just too much and it’s just not a viable business anymore. This was even before COVID. The price of labor keeps going up and there’s only so much you can charge for a burger and still make money. The restaurant just didn’t make enough to pay a living wage.”

Goodwin said she had no idea who would buy the restaurant, but hoped whomever did so would keep it open.

“It just so happened, the person who bought it wanted to tear down the building,” she said. 

 

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John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a BenitoLink reporter and an author. He has many years experience as a freelance photojournalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer who has worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and underwent graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John has worked as a script doctor and his own script, God's Club, was released as a motion picture in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime that are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: johnchadwell@benitolink.com.