Healdsburg's beloved Villa Chanticleer has been run by the city for more than a half-century, but steady losses are prompting plans to lease it to an outside operator.
The City Council agreed this week that it makes sense to start crafting a plan to solicit proposals from private entities interested in running the Villa.
The idea is to outsource operation of the Villa as a high-end special-event venue, but also keep it as a community gathering place.
"This is a community treasure. It's an important part of the community and the history of Healdsburg," said Jay Tripathi, who chaired a city subcommittee to review the Villa operation and make recommendations on how to make it profitable.
Since 2008, the city has lost $513,000 running the Villa, averaging more than $102,000 annually.
Officials acknowledge the city is not best suited to operate it as both a community center and a special-event venue without running up a deficit. Redevelopment money has been used to cover the gap, but those funds evaporated when the state eliminated redevelopment agencies.
City officials believe a private entity could manage multiple events simultaneously in each of the several distinct areas of the Villa. Also, an independent operator could still offer preferred pricing for residents and local nonprofit groups, preserving their historical annual event dates at the Villa.
That's of particular concern to American Legion members, who showed up at Monday's council meeting to emphasize their longtime association with the Villa. They hold the liquor license at the Villa and also use an annex for their meetings.
"It's not our intention in any way to push the veterans out," said City Councilman Jim Wood. "We respect the Legion and everything they've done there."
Wood also said the city needs to respect the concerns of dog lovers, who want assurances the adjacent dog park on city property won't be relocated.