HERCULES -- The broker for the city-owned Civic Arts building, site of the defunct Sala Restaurant, says she is surprised at the high level of interest from prospective tenants. Deborah Perry of Colliers International, who has been marketing the 2,100-square-foot premises overlooking San Pablo Bay for about a month, said she has two letters of interest from among a collection of interested parties that includes startups as well as established restaurateurs.
Sala Restaurant closed in December after about two years in business. Several residents who attended a community meeting at the Civic Arts building last week said the restaurant, which served mostly Thai food, seemed to be doing OK for about a year, until the food and service deteriorated.
Last year, the co-principals, Prathumrat "Kay" Sala and Glen Cole, relocated to Southern California and apparently left the business in the hands of friends or relatives.
Sala did not return messages from this newspaper in December. Cole, reached at his new job at LightWorks Optics in Tustin last month, declined to comment.
Some residents said a restaurant with a cuisine of broader appeal would do better than one serving Thai food. Some also blamed Sala Restaurant's demise on its off-the-beaten-path location, along a residential part of the waterfront and about a mile from Hercules' center. Others disagreed.
"If you have great food and great service, this place will be packed," said one resident, echoing the opinion of several others.
"Look at the Dead Fish. Look at Nantucket," Perry said, referring to two popular eateries in Crockett, the former on San Pablo Avenue west of the Carquinez Bridge, the other near the foot of the bridge and the Crockett sewage treatment plant.
One resident suggested the city allow locator signs near main roads to make it easier for prospective patrons to find the new restaurant.
The Civic Arts building, which the former Hercules Redevelopment Agency spent more than $1.6 million to renovate so it could become a restaurant, is at 1991 Railroad Ave. next to the Historic Homes neighborhood.
Perry advertised it at $1.50 a square foot per month; Sala Restaurant's monthly rent had been $1.65 a square foot, but the restaurant closed owing the city about $112,000 in unpaid rent, utility bills and loan payments, by city estimates.
Several Historic Homes residents urged the city to impose some conditions on a new restaurant, such as restricting music to indoors and limiting the hours of use on the outdoor patio. Several also complained about a continuous, loud drone from Sala's ventilation system and asked the city to demand that future tenants install a quieter one.