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Train Depot set to become a wine bar

Original post made on Jun 29, 2009

It took seven years, but the City Council has finally found a use for downtown's replica 1888 Train Depot after picking a Peninsula-based company to operate a wine bar there.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, June 29, 2009, 1:03 PM

Comments (43)

Posted by Guy
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jun 29, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Alright! I can tip a glass before I get on the train to work and also before I drive home! The city council sure picked a winner!

Posted by John
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 29, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Gee, I wish the City would give *me* a deal like the one they're giving Savvy.

Suppose Savvy Cellars were to borrow $225,000 from a commercial lender at 5.0 percent for 10 years, and pay them $30,000/year in principal and interest. After the 10th year, they would still owe the lender about $18,000 in principal. With Savvy's deal, they owe the City nothing after 10 years, and they get free use of the building for the whole time! I guess their name is "Savvy" for a reason!

Posted by Margaret
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jun 29, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Call me traditional, but wouldn't a newsstand/coffee shop work well at a train stop? I would bet that most of the people who walk past that building are going to or from the train. Maybe they've been silently crying out for wine during rush hours and we never knew it.

On the other hand, I live a block from the station and can walk over for a glass of wine now.

Margaret from No-Neighborhood-Land (Moffet and Central Ave)

Posted by Leslie
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 29, 2009 at 3:32 pm

I agree with Margaret. A newsstand / coffee shop makes more sense given the proximity of the train and light rail. The city gave this away, though at 1100 sq feet there is not much you can do with it.

Christine Tran has opened the Artisan Wine Depot nearby at 400A Villa St. Mountain View, California 94041. Web Link

It's quite the place and they have great events.

Posted by Paul
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 29, 2009 at 4:06 pm

30K a year in rent and a $225K buildout allotment? The city just gave away this space. I'm sure Savvy Cellars is laughing all the way to the bank. So much for our crack city financial minds.

Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Alcohol and transportation don't mix well in terms of public safety.

I fail to see why a coffee shop would do better at this locale.

Posted by Kathy
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 29, 2009 at 6:30 pm

In this story, the MV Voice mentions that the previous deal with Christine Tran fell through last year and that her restaurant closed. More importantly it should be mentioned that Christine has a new wine business, The Artisan Wine Depot (400 Villa Street), that is drawing rave reviews. We attended a wine dinner a couple of weeks ago which drew around 100 people. She knows the wine business. Leaving out the fact that she has a new MV business was a huge omission.

I also agree with previous comments that a coffee shop/newstand would have been a far more appropriate use of this space, maybe with a wine bar in early evening. The Depot building seems to have been designed with no practical purpose in mind.

Posted by Patric
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 29, 2009 at 7:47 pm

Nice just what we need wine and trains. Drunks on trains drunks under trains. Depressed people with wine and train. Population curbing at its finest

Posted by kathy
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 29, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Regarding Patrick's comment, don't think winos and suicidal people will be stopping in for $10 glass of cab anytime soon. He may not like the idea of a wine bar but that is not a realistic concern.

Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 29, 2009 at 10:17 pm

USA is a registered user.

Oh, Mr. Math is in a mood. He just got his eight page, large-format, Water Quality on glossy paper extolling the city’s support for the environment. Mr. Math is miffed that the handsomely-paid city staff fails to see the irony of their publication.

Mr. Math read an article titled “How Do Drinking Water Sources Become Polluted?” For reasons unknown, the article has a picture of a swan, which makes Mr. Math think perhaps the problem with our water is that swans are pooping in it. That could well explain the water quality table which shows the odor in parts per million, though Mr. Math sheepishly admits that he does not know what an odor part is or how you measure it in millions. Maybe it is the swan poop.

Mr. Math dutifully places the eight page, large-format, Water Quality on glossy paper in the recycling bin and moves on to the topic at hand.

Mr. Math notes that the city has agreed to give (not lend) the Savvy Cellar Wines, Inc. the sum of $225,000. The aptly-named Savvy will rent the faux-depot for $30,000 per year.

Mr. Math is quite pleased with himself for inventing the rhyming moniker, faux-depot, especially since Mr. Math’s strengths are not in the academic disciplines that typically lead to careers in the food service industries. He hopes that faux-depot will catch on with his peers.

Mr. Math uses his mathematically talents to deduce that the city will not see a dime of positive cash flow for almost eight years. As Mr. Math’s associate, John of Sylvan Park, noted, the assumed rate of return makes the results even worse.

Mr. Math, now on a roll, uses his skills to divide $225,000 by 1,100 square feet and finds the results to be a substantial $205 per square foot. That’s some real money for a faux-depot. Mr. Math thinks the city could buy drywall much cheaper at Home Depot, if we had one.

Mr. Math has had enough for today. He will now have a glass of wine and sit on the railroad tracks.

Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 29, 2009 at 10:39 pm

USA is a registered user.

Mr. Math lives in a world where young people who have a propensity for finding words that rhyme with “ho” are called rap artists, yet mathematicians are paid a pauper’s wages. As such, Mr. Math is unable to afford $10 glass of cabernet. However, Mr. Math, who frequently passes Savvy Cellar Wines in Redwood City, has noted that Savvy Cellar Wines has only a modest patronage. This prompts Mr. Math to postulate about how such an enterprise could remain solvent without substantial subsidies. In a flash, the irony hits him like a speeding train making him rethink the wisdom on sitting on railroad tracks while drinking wine.

Mr. Math returns to his modest bungalow on faculty row to rest for another day of mathematical adventures.

Posted by Caltrain Rider
a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 30, 2009 at 12:06 am

Obviously, only the first comment was from an actual Caltrain rider...there already is a coffee cart at the MV station every morning, & I'll bet no brick & mortar coffee shop could survive there given the existing competition (on both Villa & Dana streets), & since no one on the train reads a physical paper anymore (not even on days the NY Times GIVES them away for free). Not to mention it actually costs $ to remove the free papers that get dumped onboard every train.

Unfortunately, that space does not seem to have been designed well ("lacks sheetrock...appropriate plumbing and electrical"), and finding someone willing to risk their own financial status to make a business viable ($225K to bring it up to code? In MV? Good luck!) was probably more of a determinant.

Posted by NW Resident
a resident of North Whisman
on Jun 30, 2009 at 9:26 am

I thought the first comment, by Guy, meant to be sarcastic rather than being from an actual Caltrain rider who likes wine, but anything is possible in this forum.

I agree that there is already a coffee cart there at the station so I doubt a newsstand/coffee place would work.

At least Savvy would be one more place to shop for and buy a nice bottle of wine. I haven't visited Artisan Wine Depot on Villa yet, but up until now about the only places to buy a bottle downtown were Easy Foods and Longs Drug.

Posted by Patrick
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 30, 2009 at 9:31 am

This is going to be great. I've frequented the Savvy Cellar in Redwood City, and it's a great place to pass an hour or two.

Mountain View downtown has some great restaurants - Xanh and Zucca, just to mention a couple, but there's been nowhere really good to go for a pre- or post-dinner drink. The 2 Irish pubs just don't have the right ambiance. Savvy will fill that niche nicely.

Posted by Jeff
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2009 at 11:13 am

I live in Redwood City and work on Castro. I've been to both Savvy Cellar and the Artisan Wine Depot (just once for SC and twice now for AWD). Without getting into the merit of a coffee shop at this location (what I really would have liked to have seen), I'm a bit disappointed that this didn't work out for Christine. I love the AWD. I was okay with the Savvy Cellar. It was a fine atmosphere but Christine's excitement and knowledge really make for a fine combination. She told us about the wines and explained good pairings and really made for a great experience. My purchases those times speak to that experience. At Savvy Cellar someone poured wine and said the name on the bottle and where it was from and walked off. Wasn't bad but wasn't quite the same, either. Again though, only went there once. Didn't feel compelled to go again but maybe a second time would have had better results.

Posted by Don
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2009 at 11:37 am

30,000 a year - and they get 225,000 for improvements - I hope there is more to the story -

Posted by Bruno
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2009 at 4:05 pm

"The 2 Irish pubs just don't have the right ambiance. Savvy will fill that niche nicely."

And Mountain View takes one step closer to becoming Palo Alto. Finally a place that doesn't serve the grog that those heathens drink!

Posted by Pat
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 30, 2009 at 4:10 pm

I think its great news. Cheers to Sawy Cellars

Posted by curious
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 30, 2009 at 4:51 pm

So, have they put in restrooms yet? Doesn't look like this place is going to have any industrial strength facilities and they will probably make a buy a bottle of wine before they give you the key. Seems to me putting in some would have been a better use of my (I'm a taxpayer) $225K.

Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 30, 2009 at 6:25 pm

I'm glad Mr. Math and others have calculated the cost per sq. ft. and the total income the city will not get in this deal. The problem with 'this deal' is that the depot was an 'investment' from the downtown redevelopment district. The "Revitalization" district is one of two that divert property taxes from the three public school districts (K-14) and the county to support redevelopment. Although the $186,000 per year ('07-'08) diverted per year from the schools (city budget estimate) may seem like chump change - instead the council is allowed to spend it on poorly conceived community 'investments'. Is this REALLY how you want property tax dollars invested? Fortunately - the Revitalization District has been extended about as long as possible - Sup. Barry Groves looks forward to getting his district's share for the high schools!

Shoreline will continue to 'perpetually' divert more than $3 billion in property assessments to the city. Want a Googleplex hotel? (Google doesn't) But the Council is still spending to develop this (and it will also need a public subsidy).

Posted by The Dad
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 30, 2009 at 7:51 pm

Is there anything more boring that talking with someone who'sREALLY into wine? The answer is an absolute no, there is not.
Keep them in the bar and off the streets so they can gush about the nose and legs of their 2001 Cab, away from people with actual lives.

Posted by A Nano Mouse
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 30, 2009 at 7:54 pm

So will there be public restrooms? If not I hope the pungent aroma of bum piss compliments the bouquet of the wines. I guarantee, people will use the doorway as a bathroom at night. Ever smell Menlo's Station?
Mmmmmm...nothing like the smell of old urine on a hot summer day.

Posted by Molly
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 1, 2009 at 9:53 am

Neat idea and great location for a wine bar, but if Caltrain eliminates weekend service, that means even more drunk driving. Won't public transportation policy and drunk-driving laws ever work together? Gosh.

Posted by mc
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 1, 2009 at 1:17 pm

The $225K the operator is getting as a tenant improvement allowance sounds quite reasonable and normal. Keep in mind that the space likely has no restrooms or other infrastructure, much of which has a usable life well beyond the 5 year initial term-- I'd suggest that the plumbing and electrical expense-- likely the lions share of the cost-- should be looked at as having a 15 year+ life. The rent may be a tad low, but not ridiculously so, by any stretch. So, negligable positive cash flow, but the city is esentially improving the building and adding value to their asset at no cost.

USA, they are not 'giving' money to the operator. They are providing funds to have the operator improve the value of the cities asset

Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 1, 2009 at 2:21 pm

USA is a registered user.

MC -- Mr. Math is impressed with your financial legerdemain but would like to know where he can get such a sweetheart deal. Mr. Math pays over $30,000 rent for his faculty bungalow, yet the the school will not give him $225,000 for an Olympic-size pool even though Mr. Math used words like "leasehold improvement" to impress the the school administrators.

Posted by mc
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 1, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Mr Math is mixing his metaphor. Mr Math's $30K a year is market rent for the faculty bungalow without benefit the olympic-sized pool( which would cost more than $225K). If, however, Mr Math's fine university needed to put a roof on the building and add a shower (the math faculty is notoriously sweaty) and toilet in order to get ANY rent for the bungalow, and if Mr Maths successor, Dr. Sliderule, would also be afforded the benefit of said roof and loo, and therefore continue to pay market rent long after the potty and palm fronds are fully amortized, well, Professor Allbizness (who resides next door and pays $40K a year for his flat because the campus built him a sauna and wet bar) approves the expense.

Posted by Mr. Language
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Mr. Language is impressed by Mr. Math's use of "legerdemain" and "sweetheart" in the same sentence but is sort of weirded out by Mr. Math's insistence on referring to himself in the third person.

Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 1, 2009 at 3:38 pm

USA is a registered user.

Mr. Math does not get out much, so he talks to himself a lot and spends his time mostly just searching Google for 19th century French porn. Web Link He hopes that his new potty and palm trees will help his social life.

Posted by kathy
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 1, 2009 at 5:33 pm

would be nice if they city could divert some of that $$$$ to keep the Eagle Pool opened for recreational swimming past mid-August.

Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 1, 2009 at 6:36 pm

USA is a registered user.

mc -- Mr. Math is savvy. He will take $225,00 then go to Costco to buy an inflatable pool (Olympic-size) for cheap and pocket the difference.

kathy -- Mr. Math thinks you could sell $10 glasses of cabernet on the side patio to parents which would fund the pool operations and give the adults something fun to do. Of course, you would have to build-out the facilities for it, but Mr. Math knows where you can get a pile of money.

Posted by mc
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 1, 2009 at 10:56 pm

USA, you do that, but my very rough calc shows the NPV of the payment stream as higher than the city's cash outlay. AND they end up with an improved asset at the end of the day to boot. The 10 year ROI is probably going to be good, and the 20 year will be solid.

Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 2, 2009 at 3:11 pm

USA is a registered user.

mc -- Mr. Math is nursing a hangover from that cheap cab he drinks, so I will respond for him.

Even if the net present value pencils out on the good side, this is a sweet deal for Savvy. Even in a tough economy with desperate landlords, no one else that I know of is getting a chuck of cash upfront for leasehold improvements even if the improvements are of a general and lasting nature.

I'd like to get a new AC tower for my office/industrial space that I lease, but the building owner would laugh his a-- off if I was to ask him to pay for it.

BTW, what do you think the serviceable life expectancy is for public restrooms?

Posted by Grog
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 2, 2009 at 5:14 pm

This is a good business decision. Especially in the summer, outside tables, a little Jazz............ What better place to meet friends after commuting home by train? Hmmm, duh, the city is going to make improvements to attract a tenant. How long has it been vacant? 8 years? that is about $28K / year. Had they struck this deal 8 years ago, they would have been clearing almost $2K a year these past 8 years and maybe even the entire $30K / year for the length of Saavy Cellars Lease assuming it was the 2nd tenant. Let's welcome Saavy, mellow out and enjoy a nice glass of wine after a long ride home and enjoy this new asset to our community. Finally.

Posted by mc
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 2, 2009 at 8:37 pm

USA, if your office/warehouse space had no office at all, or a restroom, or an electical panel, it would not be leasable. If you happened to be the first ever tenant in the space, and the owner built you out a bathroom and an office or two, you would not consider it a brilliant negotiation on your part, but would say "well, DUH! he had to put a john in!" If the Voice later reported that you got a huge amount in improvement dollars, they would be technically right, but missing the point.

I think that the life expectancy for trenching, sewer pipes, water mains,hookups, transformers, etc is measured in decades. Fixtures, probably 10 years (maybe less). For the cosmetic stuff that is only a small piece of the cost, a lot less of course.

The city isnt really doing all these improvements for the tenant-- they are essentially finishing the building.

Posted by California Yankee
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 2, 2009 at 11:07 pm

This will be a great addition to downtown. Mr. Math is welcome to have a glass of wine and sit on the tracks. Then we won't have to deal with him anymore.

The city is not simply "giving" Savvy $225K for no reason. They are providing the funds to finish the job they clearly left unfinished when building the depot. Would anyone on this forum rent a house or apartment with no drywall, plumbing or electric without expecting the landlord to provide those improvements. I don't think so.

$30K per year might be a sweetheart deal on rent, I don't know. I do know two things that shed some light on the topic:

1. At whatever rent the city's been asking, this space has stood empty for seven years. The market has a strange way of helping find the right rent by dictating what the market will bear. This suggests that $30K is the right rent for this moment at that location.

2. At $22K/MONTH, the U-Wink space stands empty and is likely to do so for a long time to come.

So a reasonable rent stands somewhere between $22K/month and $30K/year. I, for one, would rather see the space utilized in a way that enhances the downtown business district in a way that yet ANOTHER coffee shop would. Some people don't actually drink that poison, you know. (GASP!)

Posted by mc
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2009 at 11:46 pm

yankee, you're aware that the uwink building is 6 or 7 times the size, right? I think that your $20K+ is wrong, too

Posted by mtn view resident
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 3, 2009 at 12:12 am

Speaking of empty store fronts, what's up with that 'Food Street' place next to the aquarium store, that place has been boarded up for years, it is an eyesore and the city should force the owner to do something about it.

Posted by jane
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 3, 2009 at 12:16 pm

If people are going to drink and drive, they will do it anyway - there are certainly plenty of places on Castro Street to buy I don't really see the logic in acting as if a wine bar by the train station will cause/increase this problem.

It sounds like an interesting business and I am glad that the site will finally be occupied with something that we don't currently have in Mountain View; it isn't going to compete with existing business but add a new type of business instead.

We DO NOT need another coffee shop to compete with the existing shops; it is nice to support small-business owners instead of adding a Starbucks or some other chain to the location.

Posted by jane
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 3, 2009 at 12:20 pm

P.S. to California Yankee--your comment about Mr. Math sitting on the tracks so won't have to deal with him is objectionable and I hope it is removed.

Didn't you read in the SJ Merc about what is trying to be done to PREVENT train suicides. I don't think you thought through your comment before you posted it - at least I hope not.

Posted by Geraldine
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 3, 2009 at 6:33 pm

I think this addition will add one more attribute to our lovely downtown and City of Mountain View. I lived here as a child and such improvements I can't believe. I've been back in this area 28 years now and am so proud to still be part of the community.
I think we would be doing a terrible injustice should we not continue or provide that coffee, etc. cart - maybe it too can be more glamorized.


Posted by Smart Growther
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 3, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Assuming the numbers are accurate, it's better than the alternative of leaving the site closed and no public restrooms. The IRR is small but still positive. The council collected bids. A coffee shop would have been difficult to sell since the coffee cart is closer to the train tracks.

Posted by California Yankee
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 6, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Jane - my comment about Mr. Math sitting on the tracks was simply accepting his offer to do so; wasn't my idea. My comment was at least as well thought through as his faulty logic. :)

Posted by RICK JARA
a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2009 at 4:00 pm


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