Three the Hard Way

Marc Yamaoka, Phil Nisco and Chris Alfaro wanted to open a hot new nightspot—But first, they had to fight Santa Ana City Hall

"I have always wanted to have a place to showcase my food and share with people who are in search of something unique to eat," Habiger says. Philosophically in line with the Crosby's honchos, he reiterates, "It's not about the money for us; it's the chance to have something special for us and the people in the Artists Village. Phil, Chris and Mark are making my dreams come true."

The Crosby bosses' dreams came closer to being realized Aug. 27, when the city granted it a liquor license, minus the absurd conditions of its original offering. It will be allowed to serve alcohol until 2 a.m., and drink orders won't have to be accompanied by food.

Alfaro and Nisco largely credit their fellow Santa Ana business owners for attending the hearing and supporting the Crosby cause. "Thanks to all the people who showed up, we convinced them it was a positive thing," Alfaro says. "Some of the council members, staff and police were way iffy."

The Crosby's owners (from left: Marc Yamaoka, Phil Nisco and Chris Alfaro) envision th space as a "haven of creativity" for their friends, themselves and other free spirits.  Photo by John Gilhooley.
The Crosby's owners (from left: Marc Yamaoka, Phil Nisco and Chris Alfaro) envision th space as a "haven of creativity" for their friends, themselves and other free spirits. Photo by John Gilhooley.

Alfaro says Councilmember Sean Mill presented the strongest opposition to the Crosby's permit, while Jim Gartner "took the lead role in getting the other council members interested." Some people on the planning staff, police department and city council angled to have the Crosby comply with conditions on its ABC license (no liquor served after midnight, alcohol must be served with food) for at least a year "to build a solid track record and make sure we weren't bringing a negative vibe to downtown," Alfaro recounts.

"The main issue is that they don't want us to turn into a full-blown nightclub. By giving us the 2 a.m. with live entertainment, DJs and music, some automatically made that assumption, without understanding our genre of restaurant," Alfaro continues. "We were able to appeal these issues with the help of our fellow neighbors in the Artists Village and local community, but it wasn't easy. We also had to pay another fee of $1,780 for the appeal process. Our concept was pretty hard to grasp, and we were compared to El Torito. El Torito was actually used as a catalyst for their argument of consistency in conditions for our business."

"It was so intense," Nisco relates. "Felt like the O.J. trial. But it passed on a 4-2 vote. A good amount of the local business owners came through and spoke on our behalf. We couldn't have done it without them."

Now the onus is on the Crosby boys and their contractors to get the physical space ready for the public. "It's pretty intimidating to think about it all at once," Nisco sighs. "The only things that can really set us back on the city/state side of it all are the final inspections—health being a big one. All we hear from people are horror stories. We'll see."

Perhaps the most heartening aspect to the Crosby's story has been the helpful advice the upstarts received from their ostensible competitors, those unfortunate souls who've been through Santa Ana's rigorous rigmarole. Alfaro and co. laud their landlord, Joe Duffy; the Memphis group; Proof; Pangea; Gypsy Den; the Road Less Traveled; @space; the downtown business council; and two Avalon Bar employees who've loaned their construction skills to the project.

"It seems like everyone's connected," Nisco marvels. "There's some weird synergy here."


For updates on the Crosby's opening, visit www.thisisthecrosby.com or myspace.com/freetherobots.

DSEGAL@OCWEEKLY.COM

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