Construction starts on Brigantine bayfront restaurants that will replace Anthony’s
An expansive two-story restaurant complex that includes an upstairs viewing deck for the public will soon take shape on San Diego’s bayfront as construction begins on the replacement for the once popular Anthony’s Fish Grotto.
Before the work even begins on the multiple restaurant venues — from fine dining to grab and go — a huge concrete platform supported by 52 pilings will be constructed for Brigantine Restaurants’ $20 million Portside Pier, which is being built over the water.
The 42,000-square-foot project, substantially larger than the nearly 25,000-square-foot Anthony’s restaurant complex it is replacing, is expected to open late next year.
The first phase of construction, likely to be the noisiest, involves driving 84-foot-long piles into the bay to support the Portside Pier development, which will sit about 14 feet above the water at low tide. The concrete platform that follows should be completed within four months.
Although demolition of Anthony’s was completed in March, construction could not start right away. Brigantine Restaurants needed to first do some testing to accurately determine the proper length of the support pilings, said Brigantine CEO Mike Morton Jr. A piling as long as 112 feet was tested but ultimately the optimal length was determined to be 83.5 feet, Morton said.
San Diego-based R.E. Staite Engineering is in charge of the platform and piling work.
“After the testing, we needed to order the pilings, they take a month to cast and cure in Montana, and they’re trucked down to the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal,” Morton explained.
Although conceived three years ago as a replacement for Anthony’s, which in its last years was not performing well financially, Portside Pier did not win final design approval from the San Diego Unified Port District until July of last year.
The project’s four food and beverage venues include:
- Brigantine on the Bay, featuring a “surf and turf” menu plus oyster bar and lounge with an exhibition cooking area.
- Miguel’s Cocina, a Mexican-themed restaurant planned for the second level.
- Ketch Grill & Taps: A casual dining area with pub fare and craft beers housed within a steel and glass structure meant to resemble a fisherman’s fishing basket.
- Portside Gelato & Coffee: Fronting the embarcadero, it will offer walk-up service for Cafe Moto roaster coffees and Italian-style ice cream.
As part of the project, Brigantine will also incorporate a 4-foot-wide public walkway on the second level, along with a 3,700-square-foot viewing deck offering panoramic vistas of the bay. The public deck will include tables and seating for up to 108 people.
One change made more recently to the project was a reduction in the size of a planned dock-and-dine facility. Originally designed as a U-shaped dock arrangement, it is now just one 83-foot-long dock able to accommodate up to four boats instead of the original 12.
The alteration arose out of possible security issues related to the proximity of the dock to the B Street Pier used by large cruise ships. The fear was that the smaller boats using a portion of the dock might inadvertently cross into a 300-foot-wide security zone that is in place when a cruise ship is moored on the north side of the B Street Pier.
For that reason, the Brigantine will construct only the northern portion of the dock for now, although the idea of adding an additional dock could be revisited in the future if circumstances change, port officials said.
Rafael Castellanos, chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners, said the Brigantine project promises to be a lucrative addition to the North Embarcadero of San Diego’s waterfront. Not only will it generate more than three times the annual lease revenues the port was getting from Anthony’s, but it will likely be a destination itself, drawing added visitors to the area, he said.
“The project is very important because that’s a flagship site on the California coast,” Castellanos said. “And we want to keep going up Harbor Drive to make more of these improvements to what we see as San Diego’s front porch.”
He says anticipation is building for the completed project, based on the kinds of reactions he’s getting to his recent social media posts about the project.
“Wow, this is going to change downtown,” said one. “Growing up in San Diego I have some great memories of Anthony’s,” said another. “That said, this will be such an improvement and I can’t wait to dine there.”
By the time Anthony’s closed in 2016, it had been generating little more than its annual base rent of $373,000 for the last few years. By the third year of its 40-year lease with the port, Brigantine will be paying a base annual rent of $1.1 million, although the actual rent payments will likely be higher because the port is entitled to 5 percent of the restaurants’ food and beverage revenues once those exceed the minimum rent.
A fixture on the downtown waterfront for five decades, Anthony’s closed early last year. Anthony’s continues to operate a restaurant in La Mesa.