Chickens may not be welcome in Corona del Mar — but apparently Roosters are fine.
The Newport Beach City Council on Tuesday will decide whether to approve Rooster Cafe as the Big Corona Beach concessions operator, according to a staff report.
“We are very happy,” said Michael Cho, a lawyer for the owners of the Rooster Cafe in Costa Mesa. “Our idea is to get away from the grease-bomb food traditionally found at the beach, and we don’t want people to feel gouged.”
The Rooster Cafe was selected from five applications, including Babes Cafe, Beach Snack Bar, The Porthole and Zack’s. Beach Snack Bar’s proposal was to use the concessions stand to house vending machines, the staff report states, and it was quickly eliminated from contention. Staff interviewed the other four applicants, eventually selecting Rooster.
“Rooster Cafe was ultimately selected due to the proven, successful track record of the business operator and the consensus among staff that the concept and product offerings would appeal to both visitors and residents,” the staff reports states. “Longtime Newport Beach residents Wing Lam and his brother, Ed Lee, are partners in the original (and currently only) Rooster Cafe located in Costa Mesa. They also co-founded and co-own Wahoo’s Fish Taco which has more than 60 stores and annual sales of more than $60 million.”
The brothers operated a food truck at the beach last summer, the report states, and have run the concessions at the Laguna Beach Saw Dust Festival for a decade as well as operated the concessions at Huntington Beach.
The beach stand likely will be called Rooster at the Beach, Cho said, and will serve fresh food with nearly all produce from local farmers markets. Sandwiches will cost about $6, Cho said, with salads, served in to-go Chinese-food-style containers, priced at about $8 or $9, he said. The menu also will include tradition beach food like burgers, hot dogs, fries, ice cream and shaved ice, and the stand will rent beach chairs, umbrellas and mats.
The proposed agreement would be for a five-year lease, with rent waived the first year and $24,000 the second year, the staff report states.
The beach has been without a full-time concessions stand since since November 2010, when the Fuji Grill closed. At the time, the owner said the bad economy and increased parking rates made it impossible for him to run a profitable business. Last summer, the city arranged for different food trucks to serve beach visitors over the summer.
Cho said the Rooster would have five employee parking spaces and would continue to work on a parking break for customers. The restaurant would definitely be open by Memorial Day, he said.
“We anticipate being open prior to that weekend,” he said. “We’d like to get our sea legs before we see the crush.”
The city staff report said that finding a long-term operator was more important than taking a “slightly higher financial offer” because of the city’s “recent challenges in retaining and maintaining a concessionaire at that location.”
Staff also wanted a concessionaire that would appeal to visitors, residents from the surrounding community and that would be acceptable to neighbors.
Last year, the city issued an request for proposals that yielded only one application, which the city declined to accept.
The item is on the City Council’s consent agenda, but members of the public may attend the meeting and make comments if they wish. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall at 3300 Newport Blvd.