The inn, located on one acre of property at 3915 Alpine Road in Portola Valley, is on the spot that it or a business like it has occupied since the middle of the 19th century, and it's for sale. The seller is a trust representing the former owners, including the late Molly Alexander, Neely said. An unnamed San Jose brokerage is conducting the sale.
Go to is.gd/AlpineQ for the questionnaire. To reach Neely by email, write to PVRoadhouse.firstname.lastname@example.org.
'A long buck'
After spending months gathering information on the drinking establishment and after learning that groups were organizing to buy it, Neely registered a California corporation — "Portola Valley Community Roadhouse, LLC" — in April as a way to create a "community coalition of investors" to step in and buy it.
"There are a lot of people (who) just care so much about this place, about its history, its present, its future," she told a standing-room-only group of at least 25 inn enthusiasts gathered in the Portola Valley public library on the evening of May 23. "They just have such a strong emotional relationship with it."
Various groups are interested in buying the inn, and they share similar goals, but the outcome may be better for the community if the groups collaborate rather than compete, Neely said. "If we can just cooperate instead of competing ... I think it'll go a lot better," she said. "I didn't think that any of these individual groups were going to be able to create the best restaurant for the community."
The restaurant building, with its humble mien, is registered with federal, state and local governments as a historic landmark — a designation that restricts what can be done. A traditional restaurant is geared to make money relatively quickly, she said. This project "is not a quick buck, but a long buck," she said.
The inn should be unappealing as a traditional restaurant because the purchase price is inflated — for "emotional reasons and the abundance of wealth in this area," she said — and because there will be high ongoing costs to make the place "safe, accessible, legal, functional and fantastic."
"Those two things combined make the cost so high that the payback period, it's just going to be so long that it's not really in alignment with what a conventional restaurant investment looks like."
In a statement to The Almanac, Neely said, "Our intention is to create an inclusive, welcoming restaurant that maintains the beloved character of a 156-year-old drinking establishment. We plan to serve delicious food and drink and offer a comfortable and inspirational space that functions as a vibrant community gathering place."
At the meetings, Neely asked the audience for words they consider evocative of the inn. Among the responses at the third meeting: a casual atmosphere, a community gathering place, a historical setting, and a place that catered to a diversity of customers.
Neely then asked what might be done to improve the place. More warm spaces for cold days, one person said. Better food, longer hours, and a children's area that does not compromise the ability of adults to enjoy themselves, said others. One person mentioned providing wall space for works of art.
The goal would be to serve food that is "as great as possible," Neely told The Almanac. "This particular community wants to see a certain quality of food. Somebody who's just trying to get their investment back might not be motivated to reach that quality of food and keep it accessible and affordable, which is a real challenge."
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