Jack Barbieri has been operating one business or another since he was 20. It’s been a long time since he was 20, but he’s still game for another business venture, and this time he’s come to Hollister to open a new restaurant, the Hollister House Bar & Grill.
This is a significant move for more than a few reasons. For those who have been clamoring for businesses to fill empty buildings downtown, Barbieri has stepped up to the challenge in a big way by purchasing the entire building on the corner of Fifth and San Benito streets. For Barbieri, it’s a big move that was made easier through the help he received from both city and county officials, who paved the way for him to relocate. And he will be providing much needed jobs downtown.
Barbieri hails from the San Francisco Bay Area and has owned and primarily operated an automotive-related business, a couple side ventures into printer cartridge sales and as a deli operator. He has never owned a restaurant, though, but feels as long as he has good people who are running it for him, he will do well. He and his wife, Danielle, moved to Hollister a year and a half ago.
When Barbieri was considering purchasing the building, he checked into its history.
“It was built by the mayor (J.E. Pendergrass) of Hollister in 1926, with the grand opening (as the Pendergrass Hotel) June 1927,” he said. “It had a banquet room in back, a barber shop, café, along with a hotel and doctors’ offices upstairs. In the early 30s, it became a bank. The hotel was renamed the Holland Hotel, and the bank was Hollister National Bank, located in this area where the new restaurant is going to be. From there, I think it sold to Bank of California and eventually Union Bank ended up here until the late 1990s, when it relocated to where it’s at right now. I believe the Broken Wing was the first bar, and then Pendergrass came in and put in a kitchen. They were short-lived, from what I understand.”
Barbieri described the new establishment as “bar with good food,” leaning toward Italian-American dishes that would attract the “mid-range demographic,” at affordable prices, with the average meal for four in the $80-$90 range. He said the bar would be in the back area of the large room, where he had sealed up one of the two massive vault doors. The restaurant portion would be along the windows facing San Benito Street, including bistro tables along a short wall. There will also be a banquet room in the back area of the building that will seat about 40 people. He said the restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and then 4:30 to 10 p.m. at the latest. The bar will remain open until midnight.
He said potential chefs are being interviewed.
“We have a bit of time yet, so we’re being choosy,” Barbieri said. “I will be the general manager and my son and daughter are going to be participating in this venture. My wife’s going to be handling most of the paperwork.”
Though he is still waiting to receive his liquor license, the restaurant is scheduled to open Oct. 1.
“I still have to call environmental health, but we have the kitchen all cleaned and ready to go,” he said. “There are a couple ADA (Americans with Disability Act) things that weren’t up to code that we’re getting squared away. The main thing is we want to have the liquor license in place before we open the doors. They say it takes 60 to 75 days, and we’re about two weeks in now.”
Barbieri was adamant that he would not open if there was an issue over the liquor license, but said he did not anticipate a problem because the city has been so helpful, even to the point of telling him that there may be a grant available to help defray the $45,000 it would cost him to paint the exterior of the building. He said he still has to wait another two weeks before he can put the new name up because he just filed the fictitious name in the newspaper.
“It has to go three weeks, and if nobody objects (to the name), we’re good to go,” Barbieri said.
Even before that happens, though, he is moving along with the second part of his venture: building nine apartments upstairs. He said there will be three apartments on each floor above the restaurant.
“They’re going to be good-sized apartments, of 1,200 to 1,300 square feet, with full kitchens,” he said. “I anticipate beginning work on those in a couple months, around mid-October. I’m guessing they’ll be done in about two years because we’re starting from scratch, or actually less than scratch. ”
Barbieri said there are no original plans for the building on record.
“I have to hire an architect to redraw all the plans from when it was built,” he said. “From there, we go into the seismic retrofit and submit plans for that. Nothing that’s there now can be used, so we have to replace all the wiring, plumbing, and there’s going to be a new elevator.”
A couple of architects have shown interest, but he hasn’t hired one yet.
“We’ve been given names of some local people, but it’s going to boil down to whose got the time,” Barbieri said. “I understand they’re quite busy at the moment.”
While he realizes opening a restaurant can be risky, he commented that being that he owns the building he has to pay the mortgage no matter what. While others will run the restaurant, Barbieri's focus will be on the apartments.
“This (the restaurant) will be almost a sub-lease where I’m going to have people running it, so I shouldn’t have to deal with it,” he said.
He looked at the building during the motorcycle rally and anticipated the event would be beneficial to the business, but he’s not going to bank on it.
“In all of the businesses I’ve owned before, I was always taught to give the customer that gives you 60 percent of your business, you give them 40 percent of your interest,” he said, adding that when the rally comes around in 2017, it will be a matter of trial-and-error with how he handles it.
Barbieri said he anticipates beginning the job interviewing process in about three weeks, which would put it in late August.
“We’ll start interviewing a little more diligently and we’ll be looking for bartenders, hostesses, waitresses, busboys,” he said. “They can call me at 831-262-2655.”
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