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Fieri pushing deal with city to bring a smoker to Tex Wasabi's


Celebrity chef Guy Fieri says he's shooting for an upscale Planet Hollywood vibe at his recently reopened Santa Rosa restaurant, Tex Wasabi's.

But from the rear entrance, the joint looks more like something featured on his show "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives."

A rickety red picket fence hides the restaurant's garbage bins, but not the stench.

So Fieri wants to revamp the area by building an enclosure to house not only the restaurant's garbage, but also a large gas smoker oven.

There's just one problem: There isn't enough room.

The steel enclosure is 21 feet long by 4 feet wide with a roof and brick fa?de. An awning would cover the entire rear of the building.

The addition of the smoker triggers a requirement that the structure be set back 10 feet from the property line. But that's 4 feet, 2.5 inches from the rear wall of the building, making that an impossible condition to meet. The property to the north is the city parking lot on Fifth Street.

So the city is proposing to carve out a special exemption for the spiky-haired sushi chef and Food Network star.

It has drafted a licensing agreement that will allow Fieri's company, Johnny Garlic's Inc., to essentially pay a fee to the city for the right to have 10 feet of the city's parking lot count as the required setback.

The agreement calls for Fieri to pay the city $1,038 for the first year, plus 3 percent each year after that for seven years. The fees were modeled after the fees paid by restaurants using a garbage enclosure in the city's Third Street parking garage.

Other conditions include venting the fumes from the smoker above the building's roofline, not interfering with pedestrians on the sidewalk, double bagging garbage, power washing the area once a month and maintaining $1 million in insurance on the property.

The city would agree not to build any improvements within the 10-foot setback for the term of the agreement. City parking operations would not be affected.

In a March 28 letter to the city, Fieri urged the city to help him find a solution that will allow his new restaurant to succeed.

"Santa Rosa is an extraordinary city and we are sure that the national attention that Tex Wasabi's will generate will help to promote the entire downtown community," Fieri wrote.

He said he spent $1 million to remodel the restaurant, which was closed for 18 months after the discovery of leaking sewer lines beneath the historic brick structure.

Fieri says the eatery will "create a huge buzz" and help make the area "a first-class dining scene."

The restaurant will employ 60 people and bring in revenue of $2.5 million annually, he wrote.

Even if approved, it's going to be a tight fit. The type of smoker proposed is 3 feet, 6 inches wide, with an attachment on the side that on drawings appears to be about 7 inches wide, for a total of just over 4 feet. That leaves just 2 inches of clearance.

"It's pretty close," said Rich Brandt, company vice president of development.

Brandt said city officials have been "pretty cool" about the whole thing and he expects the deal to be approved Tuesday.