A long-vacant auto repair garage — an eyesore at the heart of downtown — will become a casual eatery serving burgers and beers, said local developer Steve Hasty.
Hasty intends to turn the former Riverside Service Station, 967 First St., into BurgerFi, short for “burgerfication.”
“It was a long-time vacant building, just sitting there downtown,” said Hasty, who called the location “fantastic.”
“It’s right on the river at the end of the river walk,” Hasty said. Also, downtown doesn’t have a relatively inexpensive burger joint.
Hasty has signed a long-term lease with an option to buy the riverfront parcel from owners Shanty’s Properties, he said.
Hasty is perhaps best known for the rebirth of Fagiani’s bar, another long shuttered downtown business. The former bar is now called “The Thomas and Fagiani’s Bar at The Thomas” and is run by New York design firm, AvroKO.
Hasty said he will own and operate the new restaurant, which bears some resemblance to what Gott’s Roadside offers at the nearby Oxbow Public Market.
“I think there is plenty of room for different concepts” in the downtown area, he said. “I think this is far enough away. They should both do fine.”
His prices will be lower than Gott’s, Hasty noted.
The developer said he hopes to start construction in January and be open by spring. He will build a small addition next to the Bounty Hunter for a bathroom and trash enclosure and make other improvements, including adding a kitchen and exterior design elements.
“I still want it to have the old service station look but I want to dress it up a little bit,” he said. The space is currently zoned for food and wine service.
At 2,000 square feet, BurgerFi will have 40 indoor and 12 to 16 outdoor seats. The current parking lot will become outside dining, he said. Plans include creating an opening on the south side of the building for additional customer access.
The city’s river promenade currently ends at the southern edge of the garage site, but Hasty said that he is interested in talking with the city “to see if we can extend the river walk and how we would do that.”
“It may entail removal of a portion of the building (or) it may entail a cantilevered section similar to what wraps around near Angèle Restaurant at the Napa Mill.”
“I don’t know what all the options are,” Hasty said. “I’m sure the city has a version of what they’d like to see.”
“It’s a great project,” city Community Development Director Rick Tooker said of the new burger restaurant. “We love that someone is utilizing that long unoccupied space.”
Regarding the river walk, “There is a long-term vision to extend the promenade,” Tooker said. How it is extended needs to be determined, he said.
“We’d need to sit down and talk” with Hasty about any future plans to expand the river promenade at that site, Tooker said. “It’s a process. But it’s a process we are starting the dialogue with him on.”
The city has asked Hasty to consult with a structural engineer to make sure the existing sea wall at the east edge of the restaurant site is “safe and secure,” Tooker said.
The wall is structurally sound, Hasty said. “It does not need to be replaced.”
Hasty wouldn’t speculate on the total cost for the BurgerFi project, only that “it’s a substantial investment in downtown. It’s substantial as far as dollars and cents but the real benefit doesn’t have to do with dollars and cents,” he said. “The real benefit is filling vacancies in downtown Napa.”