Sometimes when a chef wants to break off on his or her own and open a restaurant, he or she may complain that it's difficult to find the right space. Available properties are too expensive, would require too long to build out or are simply located in the wrong part of town.
Prime spaces in good neighborhoods — typically referred to as "second generation" because they already housed a restaurant and therefore have all of the plumbing, electrical and other infrastructure necessary to operate — get snapped up quickly, sometimes before they've even announced their closing to the public, as with Wednesday's news about Lillo & Ella.
Landlord Amir Ansari has a bit of a compromise in mind with a property he owns at 3015 Bagby. Located where Montrose and Midtown intersect, the 2,500 square foot, two-story home dates back to the 1910s and once belonged to Texas governor Ross Sterling's parents, which earned it a historic designation (and corresponding tax abatement) from the City of Houston.
Ansari has secured both a liquor license and parking; now he's looking for the right tenant to open a bar or restaurant in the space.
"Two years ago, I came in and started rehabbing the building. Fixed all the termite damage. Gutted the inside to where it’s a blank canvas," Ansari tells CultureMap. "The building has all new doors and windows. Pretty much the building is new. It’s been rebuilt."
Ansari has even navigated the city's famously laborious permitting process and has approved plans that would allow a future tenant to begin construction right away.
"You can pretty much change whatever you want, because it’s permitted for a bar and grill," Ansari explains. "That would cut out about a year of dealing with the city and not having to pay for architects, engineers and all that stuff."
Rent on the space is $13,000 per month, which means the restaurant would need to generate approximately $175,000 in monthly revenue, liquor and food combined, to justify the price, but that should be achievable for the right concept. For comparison purposes, some spaces in the 77006 zip code that generated $100,000 or more in alcohol sales in July include Wooster's Garden, Royal Oak, Sage County and Boheme.
"It could be a full on restaurant like a Dolce Vita or it could be more of a hybrid like Boheme or Bovine & Barley. That’s up to the operator," Ansari says. "If I were going to do it myself, I would make it a Texas tavern and incorporate the oil and gas business and the Sterling family."
Regardless of which direction the future tenant takes, Ansari says he wants to work with the person to be successful.
I’ve been an operator before. I understand the dynamic of landlord and tenant. I’d much rather have a tenant for 20 years than three years," he says. Later, he adds "I understand how important it is for a landlord to be lenient with a tenant. If they want to make some changes cool. If they run into a slow time and have to pay late, I understand."
Now he just needs to find the right person who recognizes the growth in the area and has an idea that could be successful for years to come.