A remodeled concession stand at Spring Lake Regional Park opened Friday with a reception showcasing a menu that greatly expands the offerings of the previous operator, including the first-ever sale of beer and wine.
Restaurateur Nino Rabbaa says he invested about $50,000 upgrading the building with commercial-grade appliances, a wood-fired pizza oven and landscaping to make Lakeside Grill a destination with a little "Francis Ford Coppola" flair, he said.
"I'm really dedicated to making a difference in this community," said Rabbaa, who has opened two restaurants in downtown Santa Rosa in recent years and plans a third.
Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane was one of several local politicians in attendance. She said the agreement with Rabbaa was an example of the "entrepreneurial outlook and vision" that Regional Parks Director Caryl Hart has brought to her job as the county struggles with budget deficits.
The four-year deal with Raabaa guarantees the county the higher of either 10 percent of gross sales from the snack bar and boat rentals or a guaranteed annual payment starting at $10,000 in the upcoming 2012-2013 fiscal year and rising to $25,000 by 2016. An option could extend the deal another two years. The prior operator, Orville Hubbard, died in November.
Attendees Friday munched on oysters, pizza and chicken skewers while sipping spark-ling wine and admiring the new seating area that includes tables, chaise lounges and beach umbrellas in the sand on the shores of the swimming lagoon, a popular summer destination for families.
A new cedar fence decorated with nets and fishing buoys lent a nautical theme to the decor. The fence separates the eating area from the rest of the beach, and alcoholic beverages will only be allowed to be consumed inside the fence.
Zane said she initially had some hesitation about the sale of alcohol so close to swimming and boating, but she noted visitors already to have the right to bring alcohol and consume it anywhere in the park. The board will revisit the alcohol issue after the first year to make sure it's working out, she said.
Jeremy Fietz, the attorney for Rabbaa's company, Sonoma County Hospitality Group, said he stressed to Rabbaa that in order for the venue to work, the prices would have to be reasonable.
"You can't charge $15 for a hamburger here because everyone will just bring their own food," Fietz said.
A hamburger is $6, a pizza $8 and rotating "sunset dinners" such as fish tacos or roasted chicken ravioli or saffron paella will be $14. They also serve breakfast and brunch.
Oakmont resident Marilynn Scott and her friend Anne Ysunza of Bennett Valley walk in the park regularly and said they expected to become regulars.
"I'd be very surprised if it didn't turn out very well," Scott said.
(You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)