Plans for Menlo Park's BBC restaurant are unveiled

Restaurateur Rob Fischer submits design to Planning Commission

A three-floor restaurant, including a rooftop deck, will replace the BBC in Menlo Park, if all goes according to plan.

Rob Fischer, who owns the Palo Alto Creamery along with Reposado and, in Mountain View, Gravity and Scratch, added the BBC to his roster last July.

The Planning Commission was scheduled to review the architectural details of his plan for the historic Menlo Park restaurant, located at 1090 El Camino Real, during its meeting Monday night (Feb. 10).

The new restaurant would operate on three floors, with an expanded mezzanine for indoor and outdoor dining on the ground floor. According to the city, Mr. Fischer wants to add an exterior staircase, create an outdoor dining area with a bar and grill on the roof, and switch the main entry from El Camino Real to Santa Cruz Avenue.

The changes would not expand the restaurant's square footage beyond the current 7,800 square feet, as a basement level would be closed off.

It would be open seven days a week from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., with on-site alcohol sales and no live entertainment, according to the staff report. Background music in seating areas will be provided via speakers. Parking would continue to be provided via the 275-space underground garage shared with other Menlo Center businesses.

Before any of that can go live, however, the structure requires seismic upgrades as well as other modifications to get up to code, which Mr. Fischer said he expected to take at least until the summer. Also, the Planning Commission would need to sign off on the architectural details of the renovation.

The historic building housed Menlo Park's administrative and police departments before becoming the BBC. In more recent years the rowdy nightspot gained a checkered history after a busboy and a cook were arrested for sexually assaulting two women in an upstairs room at the club in 2010. Both pleaded guilty to related charges.

Former owners Lance White and Richard Eldridge first claimed the BBC had shut down for remodeling in January 2012 before announcing online that they were no longer in business.

A few months later social media executive Owen Van Natta stepped in to reopen the club, but abandoned the plan when the financial aspects appeared not viable.

The Planning Commission meeting started at 7 p.m. in council chambers at the Civic Center at 701 Laurel St. Click here to review the agenda. You can watch the meeting live online via the city's website.

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Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 10, 2014 at 10:05 am

Doesn't the building have landmark designation. Changing the entrance to Santa Cruz Ave and adding an exterior staircase seems like significant architectural changes. Also wouldn't ADA require handicap access to all levels, thus calling for an elevator.

The square footage may not increase but the seating will have a substantial increase thus calling for increased parking requirements.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 10, 2014 at 10:26 am

The BBC building has a long MP history. While I'm glad that the building may see business use, I would be disappointed if some of its historic character were significantly changed.

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Posted by EE
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Feb 10, 2014 at 12:12 pm

This sounds fantastic! I hope it goes forward. The grungy old interior needs a total redo, and the roof deck idea is outstanding.

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Posted by peninsula reader
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 10, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Thrilled to hear this news. More restaurants would be amazing. We need to build our town not downgrade it with food trucks, furniture stores. Keep the historical values of the building. No food trucks.

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Posted by Downtown Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 10, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Wait a minute! An open rooftop with a bar and grill, and the place will be open until 2:00 a.m.? What about the residents nearby who will have to listen to a bunch of drunks partying late into the night? This is not what we need.

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Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2014 at 12:42 pm

The BBC building used to be a Bank of America branch way back in the 1940s.

On another note, the building plans would have to meet ADA requirements. And, I agree about area residents being bothered by the late night noise.

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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 10, 2014 at 12:51 pm

I certainly hope the Planning Commission takes into account the history of this building. Menlo Park has a rich historic past and hopefully the Planning Commission takes this into account. It is a gem that should be preserved.

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Posted by Jack Brant
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 10, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Honestly some of the people on this site never cease to amaze me.

The place was a den of iniquity for years and has been closed for over 2 years, yet the first comment relates to its "landmark delegation" and "ADA"? What use is a landmark, if it falls into complete disrepair? Would you rather the place become a greater eye sore or they moved the front entrance? Pick one!

And then of course we have the "downtown resident" who worries about the noise!! What do you expect downtown? Cattle lowing, birds singing and the sound of crickets??? It's as silly as a person in Manhattan complaining about the sound of sirens or the person beside SFO complaining about the sound of planes taking off. If you think downtown is supposed to be quiet, perhaps you should never have decided to live there.

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Posted by Downtown Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 10, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Mr. Brant: Those of us who bought downtown did so many years ago and willingly decided to live near the Caltrain Station. We have put up with the threat of high speed rail over our heads, the coming food trucks in the already crowded station area, and now we have to deal with being kept awake at night by yet another source of unnecessary noise?

Please have a little consideration.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 10, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Out of the total building age, 2 years of "den of iniquity"? looks like a foolish description. Bud E Love used to play there as well as many others and I'm sorry they won't renew the live music scene for Menlo (but not to 2 am - this is not SF!). That's something we truly could use!

Protect this building - few in MP downtown are worthy of that status, and it deserves preservation - we all like it!. I also hope the meetings with local government will be announced IN ADVANCE by them and this local newspaper, so everyone can respond.

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Posted by The Old Sage
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 10, 2014 at 2:48 pm

GREAT!!! Love to see this historic building preserved with updates! A landmark and Menlo Park has but a few. Just how many neighbors would be affected? You cant tell me that a bit of music and the associated patrons would produce more noise than Cal Train etc. I say go for it and make it the center piece of Menlo! An actually destination spot. The building has a long history and would to be a revenue producer for Menlo Park! As it has stood for the past few years is just a disgrace.I say Go FOR IT!

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Posted by Mary K.
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 10, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Assuming the plan is well presented, I hope it succeeds! Between the BBC being closed for so long, and now Su Hong and The Hub on El Camino closed, hopefully Menlo Park will welcome some new signs of life. The Refuge has been a great addition, so let's hope the trend continues.

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 10, 2014 at 4:00 pm

From the building code regarding the requirement for elevators:


1. In existing buildings, when the enforcing agency determines that compliance with any regulation under this section would create an unreasonable hardship, an exception to such regulation shall be granted when equivalent facilitation is provided.

2. In existing buildings, where existing shaft configuration or technical infeasibility prohibits strict compliance with Section 1116B.1.8, the minimum car plan dimensions may be reduced by the minimum amount necessary, but in no case shall the inside car area be smaller than 48 inches (1219 mm) by 48 inches (1219 mm).

3. In existing buildings, equivalent facilitation may be provided with an elevator car of different dimensions where it can be demonstrated that a person using a wheelchair can enter and operate the elevator and when all other elements required to be accessible comply with the applicable provisions of Section 1116B.

4. These provisions shall not apply to existing buildings when legal or physical constraints will not allow compliance with these regulations or equivalent facilitation without creating an unreasonable hardship. See Section 1.9.1.

1 person likes this
Posted by matt
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 10, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Give me a break people. "Those of us who bought downtown did do years ago..." LIke when? The 1820s before the Gold Rush? This is essentially a vacant building, sitting on the LARGEST, LOUDEST roadway in the area, and people here are still complaining??? It's a miracle you can even function in life if these are your problems.

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Posted by Jack Brant
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 10, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Downtown Resident: No idea why you expect "a little consideration". Living in the center of a downtown area, you should expect noise from traffic, bars, restaurants, trains etc. It's part of the downtown lifestyle. Just because it wasn't there when you first decided to rent/buy, doesn't mean you should expect it to stay that way. If you were living in the countryside or a purely residential neighborhood, and they decided to put this beside you, then of course it would be totally different. and I would have consideration. You probably know people who buy a house beside a school and then complain about the Friday night football, the traffic and those pesky kids!!

Resident: Not sure when you were there last, but my point was that it was "a den of iniquity" long before it shut down. The sexual assault was in 2010, and it was a dump that was largely empty most of the afternoon and evening and only attracted the late night troublemakers at the very end of the night. It needed to be shut down many years earlier, but somehow managed to stay afloat, but it hadn't been a viable business in years.

For the sake of MP I hope they run a well managed bar and restaurant ,that attracts clientele that respect the building and the neighborhood, and improves the attractiveness and business viability of the downtown area.

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Great news that the BBC is coming back and will be updated!

It'll go well with Cafe Borrone's new place (and their original restaurant too), and with the weekly food truck events. These developments will give a boost to many other Menlo destinations -- certainly to Kepler's, but to the shops on Santa Cruz too.

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Posted by Joseph Baloney
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 10, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Mr. Fisher runs two very nice establishments in downtown PA. I REALLY hope that the planning commission allows him to bring similar quality to our sleepy little town. I'm tired of going to PA or RWC to go out to eat.

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Posted by sara
a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2014 at 11:09 pm

This is great to hear. When I was younger I went here a few times to see live bands and felt the building and location were under utilized. It was a nice bar but they could have done alot more. Would love to see another business her which compliments Cafe Barone and the Bookstore. I hope this gets through the red tape. :)

1 person likes this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 11, 2014 at 8:12 am

I welcome a new business to the area, I don't see noise as an issue, as the any business owner would be sensitive to the needs of the neighborhood. They indicated no live music outside, and how many people do you think are going to be on the roof later night? A little common sense would tell you this would be a great addition to MP. local business vs big box store or chain restaurants. I would like to see places like McDonald's leave!

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Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 11, 2014 at 12:27 pm

I love the idea of a rooftop venue. I think that will really make this place an attraction.

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Posted by June
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 11, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Of course, complaints left and right! It's downtown and there will be some noise and what not. If you wanted to live somewhere quiet, why would you live by there? Food trucks, what's wrong with that?

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Posted by Live Music
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 11, 2014 at 2:05 pm

This is a welcome addition to Menlo Park - looking forward to some more dinning options. Renovations also are necessary and being a huge Reposado fan, I trust the new owners will do a fine job making the interior and exterior look great.
The BBC used to have live music, disappointed that the new owners have ruled that out. Love being able to walk to dinner in Menlo Park. Far too often I'm drawn to the great restaurants in Palo Alto. Let's hope Menlo Park continues to draw in good restaurants, bars and yes, LIVE MUSIC.

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Posted by keith n
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 11, 2014 at 4:42 pm

We should be thanking Rob F for putting up with the luddites who are on the City Council and have been Pro Slow Growth for the 15+ years Ive lived here. Thank you Rob for saving the BBC and giving us one place that wont roll up the sidewalk at 9pm. eeesh - K

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Posted by MichelleT
a resident of another community
on Feb 11, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Menlo Park is lucky to have the expertise and commitment to quality and excellence Rob Fischer will bring to this location. His success in Palo Alto (Creamery, Reposado and Gravity) and Mountain View (Scratch) speak to his dining savy. It will be wonderful to have vitality and style on this corner. Get ready, fantastic food, service and atmosphere will be available to us soon!

1 person likes this
Posted by Downtown supporter
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 11, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Great news! With cafe barrone next door this new development will create an area of vitality day and night, and will anchor further development along el camino and Santa Cruz downtown corridors. And it supports the specific plan as it is near public transit! The rooftop dining and bar is a game changer. Anyone that has enjoyed rooftop bar/restaurants in Austin, Miami, Puerta Vallarta will know that it is a unique and memorable experience - and a leap ahead vs. RWC and Palo Alto! Thank you R. Fischer for having faith in this town, and I hope you will stick it through the long city council meetings and no-growth resistance that is sure to come out to challenge your vision. The silent majority supports you and we will be there when you need us. Don't change a thing! ( except maybe consider live music - once or twice a week or so would be nice...)

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Posted by 30's Native Menlo Park
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 19, 2015 at 1:25 pm

I am excited about this new venture with Mr. Fischer in Menlo Park. Downtown MP needs more revitalization, and this main staple would attract many residents, commuters, and others. It may even help to ease up traffic - I believe we all want that.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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