Mountain View Voice

News - May 21, 2010

Wine bar finally opens in train depot

by Daniel DeBolt

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 (for Savvy Cellar members on Sunday evening). It was exciting to be a part of helping to enliven the plaza."

Savvy Cellar's official ribbon cutting for the City Council and Chamber of Commerce was set for Wednesday night, but downtown residents were invited to an early opening celebration for the wine bar May 17. The wine bar opens for regular business at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 20, 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 employ 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, but it was found to be too "intensive" a 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 train 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 was removed from the project due to a lack of space, though Savvy Cellar's customers will be able to use the wine bar's private restroom.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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