Developer Tim Foley has acquired the rights to develop 27,000 square feet of land in Ocean Beach a block from the Ocean Beach Pier.
Part of that is the site of the former Nati’s Mexican Restaurant at 1852 Bacon Ave.
Nati’s closed in June 2018 after nearly 60 years in business.
Foley’s company, Foley Development, has torn down most of the Nati’s building in what he described as “a major remodel.”
Two walls were kept, but the rest of the building was gutted and the ceilings were raised from about eight feet to about 17 feet, Foley said.
In its place, Foley is building a new Mexican restaurant, La Dona, run by the Social Syndicate restaurant group headquartered in Ocean Beach.
Plans for the rest of the property are a bit nebulous.
Ideally, Foley said he’d like to build a hotel and apartment complex, but he said that would depend on pending zoning changes in Ocean Beach.
“If we could build the hotel and (apartment) units with retail, that makes the property a home run,” Foley said. “A hotel is badly needed in Ocean Beach.”
Acquiring the property was a rare opportunity, Foley said.
“I like beach areas,” Foley said, adding that “this is a crazy location” within a block of the Ocean Beach Pier.
Some retail shops occupy part of the site, and Foley said he hasn’t decided what to do with them.
“My original plan was to tear them down, but we may not need to do that,” Foley said.
$1 Million Restaurant
Foley declined to say how much he paid for the property, but said rebuilding the restaurant cost about $1 million.
Social Syndicate signed a 10-year lease for the restaurant, with two options to renew for five years each, Foley said.
Mike Spilky of Location Matters brokered the lease.
Scheduled to be completed in the fall, the new free-standing restaurant at 1852 Bacon St. will have 2,660 square feet of indoor space with a 1,468 square-foot patio.
Tecture Inc. of San Diego designed the interior.
The value of the lease was pegged at $2.4 million by Social Syndicate.
Foley said 11 companies submitted proposals to lease the space. He said he chose Social Syndicate because they have a proven record of running restaurants and they’re native to Ocean Beach.
“They’re very connected in Ocean Beach,” Foley said.
La Dona is collaboration between Social Syndicate’s Board of Directors and Ocean Beach operators Hoffman Leung, Mina Desiderio and Matt Braun and Judd Braun, said Brendan Huffman, CEO of Social Syndicate.
“We are looking forward to bringing La Dona’s upbeat vibe to Ocean Beach,” Huffman said. “La Dona represents our expansion into Mexican cuisine and brings a unique menu to the Ocean Beach food and beverage scene.”
Although the interior wwdesign is still in flux, Huffman said the overall look will have “kind of that Aztec, Baja feel to it but it will be sensitive to the Ocean Beach feel” with comfortable mood lighting and “a lot of greenery.”
Keeping the ‘Cool’ and the ‘Weirdness’
‘It will be fun,” Huffman said. “We want this town to continue to keep its cool and its weirdness. I say that in a good way.”
La Dona also will be homage to its predecessor, although Huffman said he’s unsure how, “whether it will be some items on the menu, maybe there’s a classic that was done there.”
Nat’s “was just a classic. It was really just a part of OB (Ocean Beach), Huffman said.
A native of Ocean Beach, Huffman said the spot is ideal and one Social Syndicate has been eying for several years.
“It was a no-brainer for us. It was a long time coming,” Huffman said. “We were ready for this.”
The restaurant will offer “a modern take on traditional flavors.”
With Nati’s closed, “Mexican food is a missing link in this area,” Huffman said.
Besides the food, La Dona will feature beverages made with tequila and mescal imported from Mexico.
Social Syndicate’s Turf
Social Syndicate’s other restaurants include Wonderland Ocean Pub in Ocean Beach, OB Surf Lodge in Ocean Beach, Bootlegger Plates & Pours in the Gaslamp Quarter, The Rabbit Hole in Normal Heights and The Local Eatery & Drinking Hole in downtown San Diego.
Foley’s other projects have included construction of a 19-unit North Park apartment complex, renovation of a seven-story parking garage downtown, and a 150,000 square-foot mixed use project in Bankers Hill that will take up the entire 2100 block of Third Avenue between Hawthorn and Ivy streets and half the 2100 block of Fourth Avenue.