Where the East Beach Grill long held sway along Cabrillo Boulevard — offering down-home food at down-home prices accompanied by a million-dollar view — the newly created Beachcomber of Santa Barbara will begin operations later this year, promising a more upscale but still casual vibe. With no objections, the Santa Barbara City Council approved a contract for a new restaurant operator — who runs the Beachcomber of Crystal Cove — to anchor the Cabrillo Pavilion once construction on the pavilion’s major upgrade finishes. (When it became clear the prior operator’s days were numbered two years ago, supporters twice packed council chambers, demanding he be given first shot.)
Despite a major outreach effort, only three operators expressed interest in running the restaurant space — two of whom were from Santa Barbara — and only two submitted applications for the contract. Discouraging greater interest was the high entry fee — the ability to finance $1.5 million in remodeling costs — plus rents twice as high as the East Beach Grill paid. Where the Grill paid City Hall $150,000 a year, the new operation will be paying a minimum of $216,000, but probably anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000. (Those revenues will be used to augment funding for city recreational programs.)
While the East Beach Grill served breakfast and dinner five days a week, the Beachcomber will serve dinners, too, plus stock beer, wine, and mixed drinks. A snack bar will still be provided, as will BBQ facilities, but the interior will be significantly expanded with a greater emphasis placed on the sit-down dining trade. Prices will go up. Where the East Beach Grill charged $10 for fish-and-chips, the Beachcomber in Crystal Cove charges $18. City officials insist that the price differential will be significantly less when it comes to pancakes and that costs will be comparable to 10 other restaurants now operating along Cabrillo Boulevard. The new operation is expected to open sometime this fall.
Editor’s Note: This story was revised on January 15 to reflect that two Santa Barbara-based restaurants indicated interest in the former bathhouse eaterie, and the minimum rent is $216,000, not $260,000.