Wine bar finally opens in train depot

After eight years of vacancy a business is finally opening this week inside the replica of Mountain View's 1888 train depot downtown -- Savvy Cellar wine bar.

After the owners sought use of the site for three years, Redwood City-based Savvy Cellar was selected by the City Council last year to take up the 1,100 square foot space next to the transit hub at the end of Castro Street. The wine bar will also use portions of Centennial plaza for outdoor seating.

"There is a semi-circle out front with seating for 40 people, umbrellas and heaters," said co owner Jennifer Ayre. "We had 40 out there last night for our first event (an event was held for Savvy Cellar members on Sunday evening). It was exciting to be a part of helping to enliven the plaza."

Savvy Cellar will have an official ribbon cutting for the City Council and Chamber of Commerce from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday night, but downtown residents are invited to an early opening celebration for the wine bar this evening, May 17, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The wine bar opens for regular business at 4 p.m. Thursday, Ayre said.

The company plans to sell wine by the bottle and serve wine and light food, including cheese and cured meats. The train depot location will employee six part time employees, four of whom also work at Savvy Cellar's Redwood City location.

Despite the small space, the train depot will be the company's new headquarters because Ayre and co-owner Brent Harrison live in Sunnyvale near Mountain View's border. Ayre said their kids attend Mountain View schools and the married couple is excited to expand their business here.

Concurring with reports about the overall health of the wine industry despite the recession, Ayre said Savvy Cellar has been doing well financially.

Ayre and Harrison have been talking with the city since 2006 about leasing the site. The council originally passed on Savvy Cellar in favor of a 2008 deal to build a full service restaurant at the site which was found to be too "intensive" of use for the small building. Months later the council made another deal that eventually fell through with co owner of the now defunct Castro Point restaurant, Christine Tran, for another wine bar that was to be called "Artisan Depot."

The commemorative building finished construction in 2002 and the city originally considered four general options for the 1,100 square foot space, which was the ticket office in the original train depot. The City Council considered different sorts of retail, a teen center, a community room and using it for art exhibit space. But city staff said retail would be the only use that would generate income for the city.

The city will get $30,000 a year in rent from Savvy Cellar for the first five years of the 10 year lease. The city gave Savvy Cellar $225,000 for tenant improvements to the inside of the space, which lacked sheetrock and appropriate plumbing and electrical. The public bathroom originally planned for the building has been removed from the project, though Savvy Cellar's customers will be able to use the wine bar's private restroom.


Posted by Yep, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 17, 2010 at 2:04 pm

just in time to be closed up when they start High Speed Rail construction?

Posted by bkengland, a resident of Whisman Station
on May 17, 2010 at 2:40 pm

I would have preferred that the space be set aside as a community room. We don't have enough such space in Mountain View as it is, and space that we do have is either costly (given typically tight community group finances) or is booked well in advance for many time slots. I understand that the City is looking for much needed income to address budget problems, but ten years seems like a long time to lock us into a retail obligation with space that is in such a prime transit-hub location and that is also very accessible for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Posted by George, a resident of another community
on May 17, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Oh Boy.. I'm sure that hundreds of train riders, after a long day of work and an hour or so on the train, with dinner waiting at home, will now stop at the new "wine-bar" for socializing and before getting into their autos to drive home...

I small place that would have breakfast sandwiches, hot coffee, after work beer and wine (not a "wine-bar), and some finger foods would work.. I doubt it this City Crafted phoo phoo will make it.

I give it up to one year.. and YES, I'm sure the $225,000 gift from City Hall (six years of rent) will be accepted by them... Egads, that much for some damn sheet rock ?
Once again, City Council goes for the dream, not the reality.


Posted by Yep, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 17, 2010 at 2:57 pm

bkengland, unfortunately, I don't think they city will feel too locked into a lease within 5 years. I love my local businesses, but this one
wreaks of "gone w/in a few years", leaving the city at a financial loss.
I just hope they put up nice sheetrock before they leave.

Posted by Yep, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 17, 2010 at 3:04 pm

OK last thing. I'm highly disapointed at the decision for no public restroom.
There's another beautiful old style depot just up the peninsula in Menlo Park. One just has to walk near the bench area to smell the overwhelmingly pungent result of not offering a public restroom.
When you don't offer a public restroom in an area where people are looking for and expecting to find one, the entire area will become a public restroom.
Summer time will add a unique aroma to mix with the bouquet of the 2004 cab.

Posted by Mikey, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 17, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Just make sure you don't pee on that "third rail" when Caltrain becomes electrified.

Posted by John the Man, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 17, 2010 at 3:54 pm

What's the over/under for when this 'wine bar' closed up? I say six months.

What a dumb idea. Really? A wine bar in that tiny building?

Posted by Kathy, a resident of another community
on May 17, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Since the city selected seasoned business owners with a proven business model -- ~5 years in their current location -- and a strong following of customers in the area, there's no reason at all to expect they won't be successful for the full 10-year run of their lease and beyond.

Posted by Brian Rountree, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 17, 2010 at 4:25 pm

@John the Man... I would take that bet and take you to the cleaners. I know the proprietors and they run a good business...

Redwood city location is successful and there is no reason to believe that the mountain view location will be any different.

I for one am excited about the possibility of hanging out on the patio this summer with friends a bottle of nice wine.

Posted by Grammar checker, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 17, 2010 at 4:58 pm

"The train depot location will employee six part time employees"


Posted by Jack, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 17, 2010 at 5:01 pm

I wish them luck, restaurants are a tough business.
Neto is right across the street and there's wine and good food and huge patio area as well.

I wonder how the owners of Neto feel about the $225,000?

Posted by ML mom, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 17, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Having been to Savvy Cellar in Redwood City, I am very excited for them to come to Castro and will be a frequent visitor. We live close to the San Antonio station and are looking forward to taking the train to Savvy for an evening out. Hope everyone will put their doubts aside for an evening and at least give them a chance...I'm sure you will have a wonderful time!

Posted by MVFlyer, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 17, 2010 at 5:22 pm

So let me get this straight--we (the MV taxpayers) paid for building the replica train station several years ago for MV's centennial with the understanding it would be used for a community room or other public use. It sat fallow for several years, and now the city rents it out to a business of dubious drawing power and value for less than the monthly rate of a decent house in MV? And that's after pouring $225K into the place? Do we really expect to make this up in sales taxes???????????

Bad business decision, city council!

Posted by Dr. Collateral, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 17, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Dr. Collateral is a registered user.

Let me understand. It's a good business decision to leave the place empty with no tenant to pay rent and make some money, but it's a bad business decision to have a tenant who at least offers the chance of making some money?

I smell another MBA in the making.

Posted by John the Man, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 17, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Yes. Six months, make book on it putting up the 'out of business' sign.

As far as the $225k being given by the city to the lessees, you folks need to learn something about commercial real estate. It is VERY common for landlords to pick up the tab for what are known as 'TI's' (tenant improvements) when a new tenant moves into a commercial property. We also don't know exactly what kind of lease it is, it could very well be a triple-net (NNN) lease. Either way, $225k isn't that much for a property like that, which apparently needs a lot of internal work.

Still, six months. Make book on it.

Posted by reallyAnotherWineBar?, a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 17, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Isn't artisan depot just a block or two from there on Villa St.??? I realize the business model is not the same, but that stinks to gift that much money to a new business that will compete with existing businesses... city gets rent money while subsidizing one business, while the receipts of close by businesses decline? If either of those two other businesses goes belly-up, this will look like a really bad decision.

Posted by Amazing?, a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 17, 2010 at 7:38 pm

A wine bar in a train station? Hope they have great liability insurance . . . I guess you wouldn't have to worry about missing the train, but rather that the train misses you.

Posted by Deaf in one ear, a resident of Castro City
on May 17, 2010 at 7:55 pm

"I for one am excited about the possibility of hanging out on the patio this summer with friends a bottle of nice wine."

Good luck having a conversation with the din of a diesel engine drowning out your voices.

Posted by Business101, a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 17, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Article states a ten year lease, with the city charging $30,000 a year ($2,500 a month) for the first five years. That is 150K in the first five years. The city "budgeted 250K" for TI (tenant improvement), I guess the actual figures haven't come in yet, but being in construction myself, 225K for 1100 square foot of space appears quite pricey. Most projects also have cost overruns, would be interested to know the actual cost of the TI. If, in fact, the city did spend 225K, and the rent remains constant, the city would recoup it's money in 7.5 years, not accounting for sales tax revenue or inflation.

Posted by Mitch, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 17, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Ideal location
90 trains/day X 3 rail crossings X 4 horn blows = 1,080 horn blows per day
Let's hope the wine bar owner can successfully convince Caltrain to stop the horn blowing otherwise they won't have any customer willing to sit there and go deaf

Posted by MVFlyer, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 17, 2010 at 9:16 pm

My point: the city shelled out $225K of taxpayer money for $2500/month in rent, with the hope of getting sales tax revenue to cover the difference in a reasonable time. The city gets a whopping 0.75% of sales tax revenue (according to the state board of equalization), so how much in sales will this wine bar have to do to make up the difference?

I understand that landlords do often put in improvements to the property--the problem is that the city is the landlord, and it's our money!!!!!!! I don't see this as financially prudent.

Posted by Business101, a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 17, 2010 at 9:35 pm

MVFlyer, I agree, glad to see someone else does the math! As another reader wrote, we don't know what type of lease it is either. Some leases require the landlord to be responsible to roof/building/etc. At 225K from the city for tenant improvement in an 1100 square foot space, they must have some fancy flooring/ceiling/sheetrock/countertops/etc. That is approximately $205.00 per square foot!

In a time when I am hearing on the news that wine sales are down, I don't see this as being the best gamble of our monies. It's not as if people don't have other choices a short walking distance away. I am curious to know what happens if the business venture fails before the monies are recouped by the city.

Posted by sick of it..., a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 17, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Get a life people - I suggest you all go out on your fancy patios or decks or sit in your hot tubs and have a glass of wine and complain some more about 'everything'! If you can sit peacefully in your back yard with no traffic sounds, kid sounds, etc. than count yourself lucky and stay at home...otherwise come on downtown and enjoy the nightlife. City living at its finest - Castro street is great and it is time you quit thinking about how much money you pay and how much taxes you pay and try to suck it up. You live in Silicon Valley - south bay, one of the most expesive areas in the country - take or leave it!

Posted by John the Man, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 18, 2010 at 7:34 am

'sick of it', don't tell us what to do. YOU leave if it makes you happier.

People like you make me sick. You think, well everything is fine here, if you don't like it you should leave. No, not everything is fine here. People are questioning the deal because they feel we can do better. If anything, people like YOU are the problem because you think everything is already the very best we can do.

I have news for you and people like you: this is not the best we can do, far from it. THAT'S why people are questioning the intelligence of this deal.

Posted by FamilyMan, a resident of Jackson Park
on May 18, 2010 at 9:55 am

a few drinks + train horn = headache!

Posted by BD, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 18, 2010 at 10:37 am

I just moved to Mountain View last year, and chose a spot within walking distance of Castro street specifically to enjoy the neighborhood (caltrain horns and all - really, they are not THAT bad). I'm very glad to see businesses opening up, and I will definitely be by to try this new place!

Posted by DW, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 18, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Total Bull-- c'mon $225,000 of our tax dollars for tenant improvements. Tenant improvements should be paid for by the tenants, otherwise they would be called landlord improvements. At $30,000 rent, the city won't even begin to come close to recouping the costs. No wonder they city's finances are so bad.

Posted by Not Dreaming, a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 18, 2010 at 2:45 pm

The train station is not ON Castro street and though proximate to downtown, I'll stay safely on the sidewalks of Castro rather than walking through the shadows of Evelyn Avenue at night.
The train tracks attract a certain element, to put it lightly, that's undeniable.
I guess with no restrooms, come the hot days of summer, we'll all be able to tell when the local soup kitchens are serving asparagus.
The train area is not a place I want to ingest food or drink of any kind, in fact its not an area I try to touch ANYTHING without Purell handy. Stupid stupid stupid planning. I'm glad they new owners have a good business to fall back on and I hope they don't stick the city with too big of a bill when they close.

Posted by Boredbyyourfoolishnotions, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 18, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Wow. What a bunch of foolish assertions being chased around by ignoramus conclusions. No one has a clue about the long term value to the city of making these improvements (and better than breaking even on them) to what is otherwise an unleasable property. Almost no one can imagine that this will be a pleasant space to occupy (there is no train there 99+% of the time, and a lot of folks enjoy trains). Ever been to the Sunday farmer's market here? Seriously, does anyone see this as a comparable concept to the wine shop on Villa? Ever notice that a cluster of similar businesses can attract business for everyone (uh, like a bunch of restaurants in the same area)? One must give credit, though, for the accurate perception that the lack of a public restroom is a bad thing at a train station/transit hub!

Posted by uhHuh, a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 18, 2010 at 4:07 pm

a cluster of businesses can be a good thing, or a bad thing depending on the supply/demand balance. You are assuming that either A) there is a shortage of supply with only one wine dealer in the two block radius, or B) people will recognize the MV train station as a wine hot-spot and increase demand in the area. IMHO, both are dubious assumptions, but I have no real data to back that up, so who knows. More importantly, I'd like to know if the tenant improvements and lease are at market... i.e. is the city basically subsidizing a new business and giving it a competitive advantage (either by allowing the new business to offer lower prices due to lower overhead, or nicer surroundings at the same overhead)? I agree with the possible long-term value of the improvements, but I'd like to see what improvements are made that justify this investment. That is a tiny space, and $225k for sheetrock, plumbing and electrical seems excessive... I would expect that there is a fair amount of tenant-specific improvements that are not a very good long-term investment if this business fails. (aka that $30k vinotemp cellar behind the counter is probably a 'tenant improvement')

Posted by sick of it, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 18, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Hey John the man -

I am so glad I made you sick that was too easy ---- just what I wanted to do...think I will have a glass of wine and celebrate :-)

Posted by heehee, a resident of another community
on May 19, 2010 at 12:32 am

You guys crack me up! So many assumptions, and opinions based on ignorance of the facts. If you people want answers to your questions about how the $225K was arrived at for TI, just ask the planning department. This information is public knowledge, all you have to do is lift your fingers and make a call. No one's trying to hide anything. Your assertions, devoid of actual fact, are meaningless drivel. Do your homework and I'm sure you won't find any conspiracies to defraud the taxpayers of Mountain View. Meanwhile, this is a great place to sit and listen to the bustle of the city, including the trains and their horns, while enjoying fine wine and good company and conversation. Fortunately, most of those inhabiting this comment thread will not be there, making it a very pleasant place to hang out, indeed! Wish there were a way to take John the Man (LOL) up on his bet, 'cause he'd lose his shirt!

Posted by Mr Advice, a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 19, 2010 at 6:08 am

They should have put the POT CLUB in this location, I would rather have pot heads than wino's milling about. And further more if you don't like pot you may go to H---.

Posted by James, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 19, 2010 at 9:57 am

sick of it, wow, that was really petty. enjoy (more) wine

Posted by Curious, a resident of another community
on May 19, 2010 at 11:14 am

I looked in there last night at about 7:30 and there must have been 50 or 60 people enjoying themselves. If this is a business that is going to fail, they have sure created a very realistic illusion of success.

Posted by John the Man, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 19, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Curious, that was a private party being hosted at the bar last evening. It WAS an illusion.

Posted by James, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 19, 2010 at 3:10 pm

I think the most common phrase spoken in the new place will be "Can I use your restroom?"

Posted by Dr. Collateral, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 19, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Dr. Collateral is a registered user.

Evelyn Ave is "shadowy"? The train tracks are "too noisy"? I suppose all those places in Manhattan with outside seating on main roads with all manner of traffic (including ever-present sirens) must be complete illusions.

I have a call into the City Planner to find out what exactly the $225K was used for. I'm betting that a big piece of that money was used in turning the space into a rentable commercial space, regardless of whether it was used as a wine cellar, pot club, or ammunition store.

Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 19, 2010 at 7:19 pm

USA is a registered user.

Considering that the city paid $100,000 for some pictures of a make-believe station for HSR that will never be built, $225,000 is a bargain.

Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 19, 2010 at 7:28 pm

USA is a registered user.

I have commuted to SF for many years by Caltrain. There is a liquor bar inside the train station in SF that sells beer, wine, and liquor that you can drink on the train. I have enjoyed chardonnays, pale ales, and margaritas on the way home. In 25 years, I have never seen an alcohol-related problem on the train, though I am sure that there probably have been a few over the years. There are very few thug-types on Caltrain and certainly none of them are likely to go to a yuppy wine bar.

I do not know if this wine bar will be financial viable, but I wish them all the best.

Posted by Dad, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 20, 2010 at 2:38 pm

So according to the posts the new place will be either a rousing success or a quick failure. It will either be a great place to hang out, or a loud dirty place with the smell of transient urine wafting about. It will either be a risky place to walk at night, or a perfectly safe part of the downtown nightlife. I guess we'll wait and see now.
I'm guessing there's a middle ground that might happen. One thing is certain, it'll have less issues and crime associated with it that the Monte Carlo.

Posted by castro mom, a resident of another community
on May 20, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Can hardly wait to try it out!! Seems like a fun place to go. If you don't like it, don't go. But I think you should give them a chance. I for one, will check it out and give you a report, if you like.=)

Posted by heehee, a resident of another community
on May 22, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Standing Room Only all night tonight. People drinking their wine standing while waiting for tables. Yeah, John the Man, if you only had to put actual dollars where your mouth is, you'd be sorry.

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