Quick Take:

Ten new food and beverage businesses are planned to open in downtown Santa Cruz, at least two within the next few months. A city official says there is “a lot of interest” in food-related businesses, suggesting a new wave of options along Pacific Avenue. Meanwhile, two recent closures and a long-delayed remodel show how difficult it can be to keep the doors open.

New food businesses in downtown Santa Cruz ebb and flow, but right now there is plenty in the pipeline. Two food and beverage businesses will open within the next few months. Four are working on receiving permits, with varying timelines for opening, and four more spaces are preparing for new food- and drink-based businesses as tenants. Meanwhile, two recent closures and a long-delayed remodel beg the question, what’s next?

The 1300 block of Pacific Avenue, in particular, will see new activity in the coming months. Vegetarian breakfast and burger joint Pretty Good Advice is opening a second location, at 1319 Pacific Ave., the former home of Pacific Thai. The building recently received a fresh coast of white paint with black trim, mimicking the style of its original location in Soquel. A few doors down, Monterey-based Rock N Roll Donut Bar is coming to the former Starbucks location at 1335 Pacific Avenue.

Across the street, Scotts Valley-based candy and chocolate maker Ashby Confections is taking over the space between Pacific Trading Company and Gobi Mongolian BBQ at 1306 Pacific Ave. The company is currently preparing to apply for permits, says Santa Cruz Economic Development Manager Rebecca Unitt.

On Walnut Avenue, Hook & Line, a seafood-focused project from Santos Majano, the former chef at Soif Wine Bar and the Kitchen at Discretion, aims to open in the former Soif restaurant location. But in an email to Lookout in September, Majano could not give an update on an opening timeline.

Farther south on Pacific Avenue will boast at least four new food and drink businesses, although most have unknown timelines for opening. One that hopes to open in early 2024 is Alley Oop, a New Orleans-themed cocktail bar in the former space of The Poet & The Patriot next to Kuumbwa Jazz. Two blocks away, Soif Wine Bar & Merchants plans to move into the former Caffe Pergolesi building on Cedar Street. It separated from the former Soif restaurant and closed its storefront at 105 Walnut Ave. in August.

As the six-story Anton Pacific project on Laurel Street between Pacific Avenue and Front Street nears completion, the city gave a preview of three brand-new commercial spaces for Santa Cruz real estate brokers who might fill them with tenants. Two of the three spaces ranging from 3,400 to 4,600 square feet are designated as restaurants, according to Unitt. “They are being advertised as available,” she said.

  • The City of Santa Cruz is finalizing negotiations with a at Café Limelight's former space on Cedar Street.
  • Soquel-based Pretty Good Advice is opening a second location, at 1319 Pacific Ave.
  • Ashby Confections is opening a second location, at 1306 Pacific Ave.

On the north end of Pacific Avenue, the kiosk in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz is currently available to lease and the city is looking for a tenant, Unitt said. Zen Musubi, serving organic Japanese rice balls, opened in September in the kiosk between New Leaf Market and the Del Mar Theatre. Information on the requirements can be found at choosesantacruz.com.

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On the north end of downtown, a new food business is finalizing negotiations with the city for the space previously occupied by Cafe Limelight, said Unitt, although she couldn’t share more details. The new possible restaurant will join a bustling food corridor along the north end of Cedar Street that includes Gabriella Café, Penny Ice Creamery, Honey B Market, Bad Animal and Pono Hawaiian Grill.

That means 10 food and drink businesses are queued up to open starting as soon as early next year. It suggests a restaurant boom in the area, but two sudden closures earlier this fall show that it can still be difficult for food businesses to be successful in downtown Santa Cruz.

Earlier this month, vegan-friendly Café GSC, formerly known as Café Gratitude, shuttered due to financial difficulties, according to a sign posted to the restaurant’s door. Unitt said the city is reaching out to the business owners to see if it could offer support, but if that doesn’t happen, interested parties are waiting in the wings. “If that does end up being an opening space, we’ve had a lot of interest in food-related businesses downtown,” she said.

And Alderwood Pacific closed its doors in September. The closure was announced as temporary, but more than month later the restaurant has not announced a reopening date. Unitt said she hasn’t heard any updates from Santa Cruz Sky, Alderwood Pacific’s parent company, on whether or when the restaurant will reopen.

Across Cedar Street from Lúpulo Craft beer House, 515 Cocktails & Kitchen remains closed and a remodel appears stalled. The restaurant began expanding its upstairs patio but has remained partially gutted for more than a year. It’s unclear when that project will be completed.

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Lily Belli is the food and drink correspondent at Lookout Santa Cruz. Over the past 15 years since she made Santa Cruz her home, Lily has fallen deeply in love with its rich food culture, vibrant agriculture...