The Oakley City Council is serving up a $50,000 loan to local restaurateurs to heat up plans for a previously stalled downtown tavern project.
The funds, distributed as part of the city’s Downtown Revitalization Loan Program, are expected to streamline the development of Main Street Tavern at 3685 Main Street — a refreshed version of a similar idea that ran short of funds.
“I think this is the type of facility the city really needs to have downtown,” said City Councilmember Michael Krieg.
Local residents Naim Zalmaiyar and Gail and Christian Knight have now joined forces for the business, which is planned to feature upscale, pub-style cuisine, wine, champagne, a selection of over ten local beers on tap and a variety of other amenities.
Zalmaiyar intended to open a tavern on his own at the location last year. He received a separate $75,000, equal-parts loan and grant from the city, but after demolishing the previous vacant commercial building at the site and beginning construction on a new structure, he fell an estimated $205,000 short of finishing the job.
Now, however, a new plan is on tap, with help from the Knights.
Zalmaiyar will run day-to-day restaurant operations, and the Knights will handle the budgeting, financing, marketing and promotion of the business.
Zalmaiyar previously owned or operated a Mountain Mike’s Pizza restaurant and four Subway sandwich shops, and the Knights have 20 years of real estate experience as members of the family business, Oakley’s Morning Star Properties. An opening date has yet to be finalized.
“When the opportunity of partnering to open Main Street Tavern came into our lives, we knew we had to seize it,” said Gail, a 20-year Oakley resident and office manager at Morning Star Properties. “It has always been a dream and passion to deliver to the community something that we have personally longed for and wanted ourselves.”
Oakley city staff and the council didn’t waver in their decision to extend the additional financial opportunity to the budding business, noting its widespread potential for the area. A portion of the loan funds is slated to convert a current four-stall parking lot into an outdoor dining and entertainment area, but that will not be granted until that segment’s design review is approved.
“Many cities actively recruit these type of establishments — restaurants, brewpubs and taverns — to their downtown,” said Economic Development Manager Dwayne Dalman. “Here in the city of Oakley we have tried to find this type of operation for years, but have not been able to find an operator with the investment to make that happen.”
Oakley City Councilmember Randy Pope said the restaurant is an opportunity for a resident-desired business to launch, noting that city officials are routinely chastised for approving storage centers and gas stations.
“We have not spent any tax dollars on storage or gas stations — those are all private developments,” he said. “We also get criticized because Oakley doesn’t have any good places for people to go or for families to eat, places for locals to work. Here we are. We have that opportunity to help. We are not building one, but can help build one.”
Gail said the trio would still be able to open the tavern without the city’s help, but available funds to hire staff and complete outdoor dining space alterations would be affected. She envisions the funds will be used for outdoor lighting, landscaping, signage and fencing.
“We would love to have something here not only that we can be proud of, but that the council and residents are proud of,” said Christian, a fourth-generation Oakley resident and Morning Star Properties finance manager.
Plans call for the business to feature an assortment of both lighter and heartier fare, beer, wine and champagne. Food options will likely include pizza, flatbreads, chicken, meatloaf and salad.
The business owners also envision hosting a variety of community gatherings, including charitable events, fundraisers, pop-up vendors, paint nights, courtyard yoga and open mic nights.
For more information on the proposed project, visit www.bit.ly/3071ygf.